“Mothers Who Know” Still Spurring Debate

August 9, 2008 | 109 comments
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Georgia isn’t the only place with skirmishing this weekend: “LDS leader’s address still causing controversy,” a long article at the Deseret News, recounts the comments of five Sunstone panelists (and one unfortunate commenter) to LDS Relief Society President Julie B. Beck’s October 2007 Conference talk “Mothers Who Know.”

The article quotes Janice Allred as saying, “[O]nce again, women felt they were being handed a script for their lives that they couldn’t follow.” Lori Winder said that “motherhood is prescribed essentially as the only role for women eternally.” Margaret Toscano made what I thought was the most insightful comment, noting that the public backlash against Pres. Beck “reflects the idea that it’s more acceptable to question women’s authority than men’s in the church.” Emily Benton shared her feeling that, as a young divorced woman, she “didn’t belong in a singles ward or a family ward.” Rounding out the panel, Janet from FMH found that it was her friends who are religious conservatives who took the talk the hardest: “They locked themselves in the bathroom and cried about it.”

Then the first commenter, a mother of five without a PhD (as she noted), stated she “always had a very confident sense of self and I attribute that to being raised in the church,” and that she doesn’t want “to be in a forum where I’m with Latter-day Saints and feel under-valued.” The article states that “several audience members approached her in the hallway at the Sheraton Hotel following the session and a heated discussion ensued,” including one man who told her, “You’re a slave and you don’t even know it.” Parenthood as slavery — well, no responsible parent would deny there’s an element of truth to that description, but that’s not really what the blockhead who made the comment was getting at.

While I don’t collect quotes, my impression is that when senior LDS leaders have addressed the role of women recently (say, since the turn of the century), they praise and value the motherhood of mothers, the service of those who serve, the leadership of LDS women who are in leadership roles, and any other contribution of women who contribute. In remarks to LDS women, the ratio of praise to criticism seems pretty high. I suspect some are reading explicit praise of one role (say, motherhood) as implicit criticism of any other role, which seems unfair — that perspective can interpret any statement as criticism. At the same time, the continued controversy over President Beck’s talk does show how complex the whole “role of women” question is. Too many roles?

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109 Responses to “Mothers Who Know” Still Spurring Debate

  1. queuno on August 9, 2008 at 5:36 pm

    Turn of which century? 21st or 20th?

    I’d like to see the brave soul who made the slavery attack try it when he’s not on friendly turf…

  2. Jia@ColorMeUntypical on August 9, 2008 at 5:44 pm

    I’m especially annoyed by women who state that they can “have it all” but when one of those things is instructed to be a parent and a wife, it turns into a feminist debate where suddenly women are being “held down”, turned into doormats, slaves, whatever else or being given too much to live up to.

    I thought her talk was especially uplighting and encouraging. Too many roles though? I don’t understand. Is it really too much to raise children, honor covenants, nuture yourself and your family, be a planner, fulfill your callings, and just be a good woman? It wasn’t as though she was instructing us all to earn 100K per year, direct the PTA, run marathons, weight 125lbs, be the CEO of a home run corporation, and star on broadway, raise 6 kids, foster 4 others, all while maintaning an organic garden and stay well within a budget of 100 dollars.

    Honestly, I don’t see what was so wrong about her talk. I didn’t then, and I don’t now.

  3. Kim siever on August 9, 2008 at 5:50 pm

    I was so disappointed when I read the article yesterday. How juvenile it was for attendees to attack the first commented. Why can’t we respect the opinions of others?

  4. Kim siever on August 9, 2008 at 5:51 pm

    That should be “commenter”

  5. Ray on August 9, 2008 at 6:12 pm

    I’m tired of the whole debate – but I’m a man.

  6. Researcher on August 9, 2008 at 6:24 pm

    I’m tired of the debate, and I’m a woman.

  7. Dave on August 9, 2008 at 6:41 pm

    queno, I was referring to the year 2000.

  8. SilverRain on August 9, 2008 at 6:42 pm

    These women obsess over and attack President Beck’s talk. They then smugly state that attacks against President Beck are just one more way women are undervalued in the Church. These people are consummate at eating their cake and still having it. It seems to reveal that, no matter the illusion of protecting and defending women, the real point is to criticize. It doesn’t matter what form the criticism takes, so long as it makes the church look wrong.

    President Beck chooses to emphasize things in her life that have brought her happiness, urging other women to do the same. She has the power of authority underscoring the experience behind her words. These women, rather than trying to emphasize things in their lives that have brought them happiness, urging others to do the same, choose to spend their time tearing down other women’s perspectives.

    It is true that the things President Beck said were hard for some people to swallow. That is, among other things, what prophets do. They tell us things we need to know which are too hard for us to change on our own. This is why they are being “stoned” today, as they always have been. If those who speak as this panel has spoken were truly behind the things feminism claims to stand for, (ostensibly for the freedom for women to choose their own lives) they would not attack one of their own for an opinion that differs from theirs. I don’t choose the slavery many feminists would have me assume, and I have found joy in this choice.

    This unfortunate commenter’s experience simply demonstrates part of why I have never attended Sunstone despite my considerable curiosity, and why I feel this event puts the lie to its own stated purpose:
    The mission of the Sunstone Foundation is to sponsor open forums of Mormon thought and experience. Under the motto, “Faith Seeking Understanding,” we examine and express the rich spiritual, intellectual, social and artistic qualities of Mormon history and contemporary life. We encourage humanitarian service, honest inquiry, and responsible interchange of ideas that is respectful of all people and what they hold sacred. (emphasis mine)

    There was no respect for what the commenter holds sacred, and none for Sister Beck.

    Pain is a blessing, as Eve understood. Whenever we are presented something painful to us, we have a choice between getting stuck on the pain or applying ourselves to understanding. Christianity is, and always has been, a religion of sacrifice. Some are asked to sacrifice riches, others are asked to sacrifice their time or their abilities to the cause of the Church. Some have sacrificed their lives. When Sister Beck asks us to sacrifice our own desires for the work of God, she is showing us how better to be disciples of Christ. She taught that women who know “who they are and who God is” find power in certain aspects of life. Willing servitude can never be slavery. That is what Jesus testified to with his life. That is what I’m finding to be true the more I live and learn.

  9. Jane @ What About Mom on August 9, 2008 at 6:47 pm

    I consider myself a religious conservative, and I am for sure a sahm, and I thought the talk was wonderfully inspiring, empowering, validating. Almost anthem-like, so I find Janet at FMH’s remark a bit disingenuous.

  10. Dan Knudsen on August 9, 2008 at 7:29 pm

    My question is: What would all these whining people do if the sisters were ever severely chastised like the brethren regularly are? President Hinckley has regularly jumped all over the men for what they were doing, or not doing, and there has never been an uproar over it. Were the brethren all asleep, or did they just realize they needed it–even though some may not have needed it? Are the complainers full of pride, and proud of it, or is there something the rest of us don’t understand about the meaning and intent of the words used in that one talk? Some General Authority talks disturb me a lot, but it’s only because I’m guilty; and, I don’t think I’m living a higher law than what they’re talking about, so that I should become insulted over what was said.

  11. MoJo on August 9, 2008 at 7:47 pm

    Am I a minority female amongst the bloggernaclers in that this stuff just rolls right off my back? I am who I am, I do what I do. I know my strengths and weaknesses and lemme tell you, motherhood is NOT my strong point. Oh well. I do the best I can and if I’m exalted, ever (not likely), I figure I’ve got a few talents that should make up for what I lack elsewhere. My kids aren’t starving. They get their owwies kissed. They get night-night stories read. My house is a mess. And? What’s the fuss?

    Oh, wait. I know. It’s the unrealistic expectations women put on themselves. Well, until each woman tends to her own pruning of such things, that will continue, and that is a journey of self-discovery.

  12. quinn on August 9, 2008 at 8:20 pm

    i will mention this again, this whole thing seems to be a lds american (maybe other places in the english speaking world) thing. my wife, who was raised in brazil by portuguese parents and who studied in europe, does not even understand the arguements. neither do many of her friends in other countries. they can’t seem to understand why american LDS women fuss over things such as this talk. we, my wife and i, both agree with 5 & 6.

  13. queuno on August 9, 2008 at 8:30 pm

    Thanks Dav (7), but I find that the phrase “turn of the century” is still being used when referring to 1900. I vote that the phrase be abandoned.

  14. Utahn in CT on August 9, 2008 at 8:40 pm

    > Georgia isn’t the only place with skirmishing this weekend

    Please, no jokes about this still-unfolding tragedy.

  15. queuno on August 9, 2008 at 8:42 pm

    The sad thing is that tone of the anti-Beck debate has turned from “what she said doesn’t apply to me” to “she’s wrong”…

  16. Mark IV on August 9, 2008 at 9:09 pm

    I think this is a big problem, and that it is bigger than President Beck, Mothers Who Know, or Sunstone. This is just the most recent manifestation.

    Hasn’t that sad little scene in the hallway outside the Sunstone session played out in hallways outside Relief Society, all over the church? It isn’t exactly unheard of for a woman to leave RS in tears, and in fact, it is quite common. I wonder why?

    I once had a calling where I worked with the different RS leaders in the stake for a few months, planning a special event. The member of the stake presidency who called me was quite serious when he advised me to steer clear of the inevitable bitter personal squabbles which would come up. His words to me were prophetic: “When two women go for each others throats, you don’t want to be standing in between them.”

  17. queuno on August 9, 2008 at 9:22 pm

    I think that if Elders and High Priests tended to be more emotional, I think you’d see similar reactions during priesthood meeting.

  18. Researcher on August 9, 2008 at 9:25 pm

    “When two women go for each others throats, you don’t want to be standing in between them.”

    Oh puh-leaze. I’ve seen something like that almost happen once since I’ve been an adult. (A direct confrontation never actually happened; things just churned along for a few months.) In my experience, most women tend to get along to a great extent, are polite even if they don’t get along, and tend to avoid each other if they don’t get along.

    I’ve also never seen a woman leave RS in tears and I’ve spent a lot of time in the halls with babies and probably would have seen it happen if it did.

  19. Paula on August 10, 2008 at 12:01 am

    I was at Sunstone this year, and I think that the press coverage was rather unfortunate. The Trib covered one kind of flaky session about Mormonism and naturalism, and another about the BYU honor code. There were probably 50 other sessions those days, so the full range just went unnoticed. The Deseret News covered two, as far as I know– the session discussed above, and one called Why I Stay. The article about this session put more emphasis on the comments of one woman from the audience and one man from the audience than on the panel’s presentation, which seems unfortunate to me.

    Here’s the other article about Sunstone from the Deseret News:
    http://mormontimes.com/DB_index.php?id=1724

    I attended a lot of sessions that were uplifting (like Kris Haglund’s hymn sing this morning) or very informative, and I wish that the news folks would do a better job of showing the whole range, rather than focusing on the bad.

  20. James McMurray on August 10, 2008 at 12:16 am

    “Motherhood is prescribed essentially as the only role for women eternally.”

    Lori Winder seems to have missed the obvious point that Fatherhood is prescribed essentially as the only role for men eternally as well. All of the other earthly trappings of the “patriarchy” will ultimately be stripped away, will they not? Good news for celestial feminists everywhere! (I don’t mean that pejoratively, either)

  21. Ardis Parshall on August 10, 2008 at 12:33 am

    James, that’s a lot of comfort for mortal women — kind of like all the rhetoric for single women about the good times a-comin’ in the hereafter, with no attention given to making mortality meaningful. Women should all just up and die, I think, in order to get to the good stuff.

  22. Ardis Parshall on August 10, 2008 at 12:35 am

    Insert obligatory smiley on that last one.

  23. Douglas Hunter on August 10, 2008 at 12:58 am

    ” I suspect some are reading explicit praise of one role (say, motherhood) as implicit criticism of any other role, which seems unfair — that perspective can interpret any statement as criticism.”

    It’s not about praise and criticism it is about how meaning and value are proscribed to women’s lives by Church leaders specifically and Mormon culture in general. Granted, Church leaders are also proscriptive concerning men’s lives as well so the bigger issue is the gender essentialism, the biological determinism that is held as standard doctrine in the Church. But an important part of that issue is how that determinism impacts the lives of individual women in terms of the opportunities they are encouraged to seek, how they are told they will be fulfilled as women, and what they should find the greatest joy in. It is the experience of some that there is a disconnect between what is taught and one’s personal experience.

    “Margaret Toscano made what I thought was the most insightful comment, noting that the public backlash against Pres. Beck “reflects the idea that it’s more acceptable to question women’s authority than men’s in the church.”

    This may or may not be an insight. The argument needs to be developed within the specific context. I read and signed the letter that was a response to Beck and I didn’t see it as a “backlash” or a questioning of her authority at all. It was a thoughtful response. If anything, there may have been the subtext that some women felt that Beck let them down, or was towing the line, but to make that about her authority is a strain at best. The contrary argument is also pretty easy to develop; that the response to Beck arose because she is a woman with real authority in the Church. it was a woman with authority at the podium restating the kind of gender essentialism that women have been fighting against for a very long time, In which case it’s an acknowledgment of her authority not a questioning of it.

    On the other hand it could be said that it is indeed always easier to be critical of female leaders in the Church for the simple reason that they do not hold the priesthood, nor do they hold the positions of central authority in the Church. Women’s authority could be said to be inherently less for these reasons. If there were gender equality in the Church then the question of authority in relation to gender would need to be recast.

  24. quin on August 10, 2008 at 1:45 am

    Seems that a better title would have been “Mothers Who Don’t Know Still Debating” *grin*

    And I disagree Douglas that Sister Beck’s gender made it easier to be critical. I’d bet a kidney that if one of the GA’s had presented the same talk, the backlash would have been just as bad, if not worse.

    I applaud Sister Beck for “towing the line” just as I do any other Church leader or member for that matter, male or female, that ignore the howls of the natural man to heed the quiet wisdom of God.

  25. Douglas Hunter on August 10, 2008 at 2:13 am

    Quin, In no way did I state that sister Beck’s gender made it easier to be critical. Perhaps you meant to respond to someone else. Either that or you didn’t understand my comment.

    Your last statement fabricates a situation in which it’s possible for specific cultural / political understandings to be conflated with Church doctrine and that to question such a conflation is always wrong before the fact. You are right that we should heed the quiet wisdom of God and ignore the howls of the natural man. You are just confused about which is which.

  26. MSG on August 10, 2008 at 2:34 am

    #3 Poses an excellent question– Why is it that we can’t respect the opinions of others (when it differs from our own?)
    Is it because the natural man is naturally judgmental or in other words, prideful) in order to make him/herself appear to be a better person than the next person? Or is the natural man naturally insecure because he knows he’s imperfect and is inclined to put others down to make himself feel better–pride again.
    We’re not to judge others. Period.
    If we were truly a Zion people, we wouldn’t even think to discuss how the woman next to us is conducting her life–we would automatically think the best of her and be supportive of her –assumng she was doing her best to live the way the Lord would have her regardless of whether she works outside the home or is a SAHM.
    I also agree with #12. It isn’t a big deal in Europe. Perhaps it’s because there were so few Saints that each one was treasured by the
    other Saints.
    I agree with Sister Dew. Judgment Day will be nothing compared to the judgments we have all been subjected to by one another in this lifetime.
    I too am tired of it. America went through this discussion in the 70′s.
    The Church catches up later and now it’s with us. And just like it
    went away in society as a whole, it will with us too–I hope.

  27. Bored in Vernal on August 10, 2008 at 9:42 am

    I don’t think we should let this subject drop. Let’s take the emphasis off Julie Beck’s talk, though, and what she said or didn’t say, or should have said. I’d love to examine why this is still causing so much virulent emotion among women.

    I was able to talk to the commenter personally and, (though I feel it was unfortunate that she chose to phrase her comments as a pointed attack against Margaret Toscano) I feel I can understand where she was coming from. She had attended the session because Julie Beck’s talk had hurt her, too. She was dismayed that the panel seemed to represent one side of those who disagreed with the talk; she didn’t feel represented. This is the very feeling that many experienced as they listened to the General RS President describe the “only true way” to be a “mother who knows.” As women, it seems that when one approach to womanhood and motherhood is lauded we assume that others are being denigrated.

  28. Bored in Vernal on August 10, 2008 at 9:42 am

    I don’t think we should let this subject drop. Let’s take the emphasis off Julie Beck’s talk, though, and what she said or didn’t say, or should have said. I’d love to examine why this is still causing so much virulent emotion among women.

    I was able to talk to the commenter personally and, (though I feel it was unfortunate that she chose to phrase her comments as a pointed attack against Margaret Toscano) I feel I can understand where she was coming from. She had attended the session because Julie Beck’s talk had hurt her, too. She was dismayed that the panel seemed to represent one side of those who disagreed with the talk; she didn’t feel represented. This is the very feeling that many experienced as they listened to the General RS President describe the “only true way” to be a “mother who knows.” As women, it seems that when one approach to womanhood and motherhood is lauded we assume that others are being denigrated.

  29. Jim Donaldson on August 10, 2008 at 10:51 am

    Sister’s Beck talk was addressed entirely to mothers, not women, isn’t it?. If you aren’t a mother, it isn’t meant for you. My two single adult daughters can stand down. What she said, I think, is that if I am a mom, I really need to do a good job of it because lots is depending on it. And that is certainly true. Those who were somehow failing to perform well the duties of motherhood should be and feel chastised, just like lousy fathers get ripped almost every priesthood session. If you aren’t doing a good job as a mom, she said, get with it. And besides, she said, being a mother is a wonderful thing. Enjoy it, be empowered by it. Kind of a pep talk, no?

    She never said that motherhood is the only purpose for women, did she? She said, I think, if you undertake the gig, do it right. She did say that you should want to undertake the gig, but I don’t see that as being particularly objectionable or controversial, at least in any significant way, is it?. Indeed, the last people we want bearing children are those who don’t want to have them. She didn’t say that exactly, but she’d certainly agree, wouldn’t she?

    She said that being a good mother is so critical that the consequences of failure are catastrophic and, mostly by implication, if you are a mom and if being a mom isn’t your highest priority, you need to adjust your priorities. Is that controversial? The guys pretty much get that every priesthood session, don’t we?

    I confess to being a guy. We have a history of not getting it, when it comes to women and their concerns. What am I not getting here?

    Like BiV (#27), I’m interested in the reaction, too.

  30. Dan Ellsworth on August 10, 2008 at 10:59 am

    I was as critical of Pres. Beck’s talk as anyone; I theorized that she had recently read Jane Clayson’s book and come away with the impression that motherhood is under fire and viewed with contempt by society, and so it was in need of defending. And I figured that this was a misguided sentiment because motherhood is so often celebrated in our popular culture.
    Now I read that a man at Sunstone mustered enough wisdom, charity, and courage to tell that commenter “You’re a slave and you don’t even know it” and I think it’s apparent motherhood does need defending after all.
    I wasn’t that that Sunstone session- was there anyone on that panel that enjoyed and supported Pres. Beck’s talk?

  31. Bored in Vernal on August 10, 2008 at 11:56 am

    No.

  32. Bored in Vernal on August 10, 2008 at 12:02 pm

    I should rephrase: fmhJanet was on the panel and she did try to be supportive of the Church position. She told me in a comment on my blog:

    I addressed not just whether the church provides an architecture for building identity besides motherhood WITHIN the power structure of the church, but without it as well. The latter is true—the church does provide some quite good pedagogical impetus for helping females see themselves as smart and strong (though not enough–no where does enough of that). It helps women build an identity outside the doors of the church if not within. My further argument was that while that extra-maternal identity may not be debased when you stop inside the church doors, it is, quite often, erased. And that’s deeply problematic, especially in light of the power structure as explicated by the other speakers.

    but I think these points were obscured by the overrepresentation on the panel of the critical view.

  33. Peter LLC on August 10, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    Who is this Beck you are all speaking of?

  34. ZD Eve on August 10, 2008 at 12:55 pm

    Peter, lol. For some reason when speaking of a Beck in a Mormon context, I often mix up Martha and Julie, saying the first when I mean the second. That slip of the tongue is really going to get me in trouble one of these days.

  35. Dan Ellsworth on August 10, 2008 at 12:55 pm

    Peter,

    Pres. Beck is the General Relief Society President.

    I’m surprised they gave a spot on the panel to Margaret Toscano but couldn’t find room for one of the many intelligent and informed women in the Church who enjoyed the talk. Somebody decided balance is overrated.

  36. Kiskilili on August 10, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    Does Sunstone have an ideological obligation to present a range of perspectives on every issue, though (hence, “balance”)? The Church isn’t balanced, and I don’t think it should be: Church leaders believe certain things are right and others are not, and they have every reason to convey to us their genuine convictions rather than providing a spectrum of perspectives. Sunstone speakers have a similar right. Maybe I don’t know the context for this situation–such as that the woman who commented first applied to present on the panel and was turned down (?)–but I think if she’s lamenting the fact nobody on the panel presented her own point of view, she should remedy that herself by submitting an abstract for next year’s symposium.

    The DN press coverage strikes me as stirring up a tempest in a teapot–I don’t think “firestorm” is really a fair characterization of what happened in the session. It seemed pretty tame to me, and Margaret Toscano was extremely conciliatory. If the first commenter really was accosted in the hall, that’s terribly unfortunate. She was pretty confrontational, though, and my impression was that she was fighting her own ideological demons and not what the panelists actually said. But I suppose comments, including my own, tend to play out that way. :)

  37. Ardis Parshall on August 10, 2008 at 1:26 pm

    Sister’s Beck talk was addressed entirely to mothers, not women, isn’t it?. If you aren’t a mother, it isn’t meant for you. … She never said that motherhood is the only purpose for women, did she?

    This memory/assumption is inaccurate. Sister Beck’s introductory remarks included:

    “Some women are not given the responsibility of bearing children in mortality, but just as Hannah of the Old Testament prayed fervently for her child (see 1 Samuel 1:11), the value women place on motherhood in this life and the attributes of motherhood they attain here will rise with them in the Resurrection (see D&C 130:18). Women who desire and work toward that blessing in this life are promised they will receive it for all eternity, and eternity is much, much longer than mortality.”

    So while she didn’t literally say “Motherhood is your only purpose,” motherhood is the only purpose she addressed, and she did literally say her remarks were meant for all women, mothers or not. So like I wrote in #21 (mostly in jest; I do try to be a good sport, but it does sting sometimes), this is another case of “your mortal life has no purpose except to bake cookies and babysit for other women’s children — but just you wait! When you’re dead, you’ll catch up to the real women.”

    Don’t misunderstand me. I support Sister Beck and the truth of everything she said in her talk, including the way women-who-aren’t-mothers were brought in as pale shadows of “mothers who know.” I think we all heard the talk in light of our own personal circumstances.

    The difference between this talk and many others was that it was filled with very concrete images for us to compare ourselves against, and to be compared against by each other. The images in talks about charity or tithing or honesty or temple work or purity of heart or avoidance of porn or a missionary mindset are seldom as concrete, as publickly visible, as easy to judge or be judged by, as the images in this one: everybody can instantly see whether you have children, how they’re dressed at church, whether your house is neat. It isn’t instantly knowable that you wanted children but couldn’t have them, or that you rocked your sticky little boy for hours as he sobbed his heart out for his dead puppy, or that you have been wearing your soul out helping your headstrong teenager stay somewhere near the right path. There were some hard — if true — comparisons, and some fears — justified or not — that all of us could be so easily judged by outward appearances rather than inward desires, despite how much Sister Beck talked about those inward desires.

  38. ZD Eve on August 10, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    Margaret Toscano made what I thought was the most insightful comment, noting that the public backlash against Pres. Beck “reflects the idea that it’s more acceptable to question women’s authority than men’s in the church.”

    Maybe. But I suspect that the topic itself and the way it’s handled play at least as large a role as the speaker’s gender in determining the degree of subsequent brouhaha. Even though I was just a teenager at the time, I remember being aware of the heated reaction to and debate over President Benson’s late-80s “To the Mothers in Zion”–and I was living in the heart of Utah Valley at the time. Had there been an Internet, I strongly suspect there would have been the same sorts of online discussions and formal responses that Sister Beck’s talk elicited.

    At the same time, I do think Margaret Toscano has a point about women’s authority. The general auxiliary presidencies and general boards have a very unclear status (not to mention very, very unenviable jobs–the only job I can think of that would be worse would be apostle’s wife). Although they clearly have some sort of general authority within their organizations, they’re not prophets, seers, or revelators for the entire church, nor even for the segments of it they direct (that is, we don’t sustain Sister Beck as the prophetess of the Relief Society). So the doctrinal or canonical status of their pronouncements–particularly when given in General Conference to the general membership of the church–is extremely unclear.

  39. ZD Eve on August 10, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    I just want to add that I think Ardis is exactly right to connect the specificity of the images Sister Beck used to the firestorms that ensued. Some have observed that Elder Ballard gave essentially the same talk in this latest conference and took no comparable flak for it, presumably because he’s male, but to my ear it was an extremely different talk, in part because of his choice of examples.

  40. Kiskilili on August 10, 2008 at 1:49 pm

    SilverRain (#8) writes, “There was no respect for what the commenter holds sacred, and none for Sister Beck.”

    Since you admitted you weren’t in attendance, I’m curious as to whether this is your perspective having downloaded the MP3 (are they even available yet?) or is based exclusively on the DN article. It’s terribly unfortunate that other attendees apparently spewed overblown rhetoric at her in the hall–I neither witnessed nor participated in that–but it seemed to me the panelists bent over backwards to validate her concerns and apologize if she felt marginalized by their remarks. I wouldn’t say there was “no respect.” But people behaving respectfully toward each other doesn’t exactly make for exciting news, so it’s not what gets into the paper.

    Dan Knudsen (#10) writes, “My question is: What would all these whining people do if the sisters were ever severely chastised like the brethren regularly are? President Hinckley has regularly jumped all over the men for what they were doing, or not doing, and there has never been an uproar over it. Were the brethren all asleep, or did they just realize they needed it–even though some may not have needed it? Are the complainers full of pride, and proud of it, or is there something the rest of us don’t understand about the meaning and intent of the words used in that one talk? Some General Authority talks disturb me a lot, but it’s only because I’m guilty; and, I don’t think I’m living a higher law than what they’re talking about, so that I should become insulted over what was said.”

    Since I’m personally full of pride, and proud of it, I may not be qualified to respond! But my impression of the panel (I should have taken notes!) is that it was much more wide-ranging than President Beck’s talk–the panelists were objecting to the all-encompassing characterization of women generally in the Church as mothers even before they’re born and regardless of the various roles they play–in other words, to the content of the chastisement rather than the tone (the fact that it was a chastisement).

  41. Randy B. on August 10, 2008 at 2:04 pm

    I’ve also been thinking about Margaret’s comment that the criticism over Pres. Beck’s talk tends to reflect the general thought that it is more acceptable to question women’s authority than men’s in the church.

    It’s an interesting point, and I suspect there is an element of truth there. (I think Ardis’s explanation also has merit to it.) But I also wonder (and I mean that literally — I don’t know) whether some women had a harder time hearing the message from one of their own, a potential ally in the power structure, who they had hoped would better appreciate the situation women face in the church. Again, I don’t know whether this is the case or not — just a thought.

  42. quin on August 10, 2008 at 2:34 pm

    Douglas,

    Forgive me and my phrasing. What you said was
    “On the other hand it could be said that it is indeed always easier to be critical of female leaders in the Church for the simple reason that they do not hold the priesthood, nor do they hold the positions of central authority in the Church.” So, what I should have said was “I disagree with the one of the arguments that Douglas presented, namely that ‘it could be said that it is indeed always easier to be critical of leaders who do not hold the priesthood or hold the positions of central authority in the Church.’ I’d bet a kidney that if someone who held the priesthood or a position of central authority had presented the same talk, the backlash would have been just as bad, if not worse.”

    As to my second statement: you mentioned that some women may have felt that Sister Beck “let them down or was towing the line”. Since the term “towing the line” is an idiom that means “to adhere or conform to rules, standards, or doctrines conscientiously” and doesn’t refer to myths or conflated understandings at all, the only way to interpret what you said is that the women you were referring to were upset because Sister Beck appeared to be adhering to the actual rules, standards or doctrines of the LDS Church. Since conversion is “to change one’s heart, beliefs and life to accept and conform to the will of God,” I find Sister Beck’s position and example to be praiseworthy.

    Any doctrinal discourse like Sister Beck’s talk or the Proclamation on Family are always going to be under fire from those who do not seek to receive a personal witness that they contain the wisdom of God and are revealed through the influence of the Holy Spirit. And while there seems to be some who are confused about the things Sister Beck said, as one that is now accountable to honor the witness given to me that she spoke the truth, I am not one of them.

  43. Michelle Glauser on August 10, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    How many people say they don’t belong in a singles ward or a family ward are doing that to themselves? I think a lot of things we label somehow become that way. I.e., when we say something is embarrassing, it is. If we refuse to acknowledge that it’s embarrassing and we know we are doing our best, it should be okay.

    I personally have no idea how I’m going to get from the point I’m at now to the point where I will be okay with “settling down” and becoming a mother who is anything but mediocre. I love traveling, furthering my education, and teaching, all of which are things hard to do for the stereotypical stay-at-home mom. However, I have faith that things will work out. I marvel to see how my brilliant sister has become the best mom I have ever seen. Her two-year-old knows the alphabet, all the scripture stories, and what vitamins are in different foods. He can quote books verbatim. Pouring her talent into the success of her children doesn’t belittle her in the way I’ve always pictured. It actually makes me respect her even more, not less because of the fact that I’m not sure I could do it. And being a mother doesn’t take away from her any. When people say that stay-at-home moms are slaves, what are they saying about their own mothers? Would they rather have had a mother who was distracted much of the time? Granted, I think men should also be less distracted if it is possible.

    Anyway, just some thoughts.

  44. ZD Eve on August 10, 2008 at 2:45 pm

    But I also wonder (and I mean that literally — I don’t know) whether some women had a harder time hearing the message from one of their own, a potential ally in the power structure, who they had hoped would better appreciate the situation women face in the church. Again, I don’t know whether this is the case or not — just a thought.

    This could definitely be the case for some, Randy. It’s certainly possible. All I can say is that it’s never been the case for me. To pick up on Mark IV’s point a few comments up, I’ve encountered more hostility and contempt among Mormon women (at all points on the ideological spectrum) than I ever have from Mormon men. It’s been my experience, for example, that no one is harsher in her criticism of a mother than another mother.

  45. Seraphine on August 10, 2008 at 2:51 pm

    I think Randy B. has a point, and the panelists also made this argument. I think a stronger point that multiple presenters in this session made (not just Margaret Toscano) was that one reason Julie Beck was criticized was that in the eyes of most women, she is their voice in the hierarchies of the church (making it her responsibility to speak for their experiences as women in the church). The presenters argued that because Beck’s talk presented such a narrow view of what women’s lives should look like, many women (from women who are not mothers all the way to women who are stay-at-home mothers) were bothered by Beck’s talk, and were upset because they didn’t see their own experiences reflected in her words (or felt that her expectations weren’t taking into account circumstances that might make it difficult to live up to the ideal she presented).

    While I think that we shouldn’t expect Beck to give a talk that represents every single women’s experience in the church (it would take too much time), and it is her responsibility to give guidance and represent ideals we should be working towards, I thought this was a powerful point. It makes sense that women expect one of the only women they hear at General Conference to speak words that reflect what it means for them to be a woman in the church (this was also the central point of the panel that Paula referenced in her comment above).

    Another quick note: I too was at the session, and the panelists tried very hard to be kind and conciliatory to the first woman who commented. This commenter told Margaret Toscano that she didn’t think that her choices would be accepted were she in the Toscano family, she accused the panelists of not understanding what it meant to be a mother, and that she was deeply offended that they didn’t invite her to be on the panel. I also regret that rude comments were made to her in the hall, but I thought that after she made her comment, the panelists tried really hard to clarify that in no way did they mean to invalidate her choices and experiences, that they also valued motherhood as a choice, and they apologized if their remarks offended her in any way.

    (And thanks BiV for clarifying why the woman was bothered by the panel. Oh, and I also agree with Kiskilili that this was in no way a firestorm.)

  46. Ben on August 10, 2008 at 2:51 pm

    “Does Sunstone have an ideological obligation to present a range of perspectives on every issue, though (hence, “balance”)?”

    I don’t think they have an obligation, but it’s certainly the PR position they take, often explicitly in contrast to apologetic groups. “WE give time to all sides, but YOU don’t.”

  47. Lynnette on August 10, 2008 at 2:54 pm

    This unfortunate commenter’s experience simply demonstrates part of why I have never attended Sunstone despite my considerable curiosity, and why I feel this event puts the lie to its own stated purpose.

    I didn’t witness what happened after the session in the hall–and I’m disturbed to hear of it–but I don’t think it’s fair to write Sunstone off over one incident, anymore than it would be fair to dismiss the Church altogether because someone said a rude thing in the hall. In the session itself, as others have said, I thought Margaret Toscano was quite conciliatory in her response to this particular commenter. Also, as Paula mentioned, this was only a narrow slice of Sunstone–I’m not sure that a DN article which seemed to be looking for controversy is the best way to get a sense of what the conference is actually like.

  48. quin on August 10, 2008 at 2:56 pm

    Lest anyone attempt to wrest my words or my intentions, please let me clarify that I view “those who do not seek to receive a personal witness” as categorically different from “those who [seek but] have not yet received” one for whatever reason.

    I phrased it the way I did because I personally cannot comprehend why a genuinely sincere, intelligent, prayerful person who has not made up their mind (or obtained a witness) either way would direct canon fire (pun!) at a ship they could later be a passenger on. Since my own perspective might not be shared by others, I felt I should qualify what I meant.

  49. Juliann on August 10, 2008 at 3:16 pm

    I continue to wonder why women can\’t just shrug this off like most of us do with a good number of conference talks. But that only tells me that I am missing something eventful that I need to understand. I didn\’t attend Sunstone (although I did attend and Q&A comment on the Sunstone West presentation on the creation of the petition). I have rethought my position several times since a follow up discussion with a couple of the impressive panelists. I am still undecided on what the issue is let alone how to address it. However, as someone inclined to hold a defend the church default position I do see the problems. First, there is no direct conduit for women to reach the brethren who I suspect would listen if it came through trusted channels. Second I sense that the RS leaders are representing the church not women per se and we are barking up the wrong tree. Third it is considered acceptable for men to speak for women in the church. Fourth we confuse the priesthood with the man who holds it. Fifth when we separate women and speak of us as only as \”women\” we enable negative comments about women\’s natures which I consistently see on the most \”liberal\” of blogs which then perpetuates the problem of excluding women. (I\’m not sure I can explain that effectively). Last, there should be little wonder that these reactions are dismissed as coming from \”feminists\” when they are couched in the most unsubtle of feminist rhetoric just as the church couches everything it says in church rhetoric. In short, there is a lot of wisdom that is being stuffed into a \”feminist\” black hole. Whether it is fair or just, feminism is not a concept that unites women. At some point everyone needs to decide if they want to make a difference or if they just want to preach to their respective choirs. If a church audience is to be reached the first thing that has to be done is effectively articulate why all this matters in a respectful manner…..and do it in a manner that will be listened to. Most problematic is the continued use of exMormons to address Mormon issues with any expectation that it will reach anyone who can make change no matter how much wisdom they have (and they have much) In fact, going public in this manner ensures that the problem will be prolonged. Is that right? No but it is the way it is and it brings me back to wondering what the goal is when I think we all really do understand how it is. \”Orthodox\” Mormon women are going to have to carry the message…..if it is the message that really matters. And it will have to be carried the \”Mormon way\” if it is making change that really matters. That is as far as I have gotten with this but I think these things do matter and they are being felt by the majority of Mormon women in some manner or another.

  50. ZD Eve on August 10, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    one reason Julie Beck was criticized was that in the eyes of most women, she is their voice in the hierarchies of the church (making it her responsibility to speak for their experiences as women in the church). The presenters argued that because Beck’s talk presented such a narrow view of what women’s lives should look like, many women (from women who are not mothers all the way to women who are stay-at-home mothers) were bothered by Beck’s talk, and were upset because they didn’t see their own experiences reflected in her words (or felt that her expectations weren’t taking into account circumstances that might make it difficult to live up to the ideal she presented).

    This is a really good point. I think because there are so few women speakers in General Conference, there’s a tremendous and inevitable pressure on the one or two who do speak each conference to represent the range of Mormon womanhood in their remarks, and to address their remarks to Mormon women in a range of circumstances, in a way that there isn’t on any given male speaker.

  51. Randy B. on August 10, 2008 at 3:24 pm

    Eve & Seraphine, excellent points. Thanks.

  52. MoJo on August 10, 2008 at 3:32 pm

    #44. ZD Eve:

    It’s been my experience, for example, that no one is harsher in her criticism of a mother than another mother.

    It’s been my experience that this can be said of women in general. Fact of life: We’re like crabs in a bucket.

    #49. Juliann:

    Whether it is fair or just, feminism is not a concept that unites women.

    Indeed. There are a couple of Mormon feminist blogs where I don’t feel welcome because, feminist though I am, I don’t have the correct politics to be one. Apparently, there is no such thing as a libertarian/conservative feminist. Talk about harsh criticism, so I just don’t go to those places anymore.

    I continue to wonder why women can\’t just shrug this off like most of us do with a good number of conference talks.

    Again, that’s also what I wonder. If it’s the examples of what constitutes motherhood in Sister Beck’s talk is what’s offputting, well, isn’t that what the 60s and 70s feminist did? Create unrealistic expectations of bringing home the bacon and frying it up in a pan? And then it took 30 years for everybody to figure out they couldn’t be Supermom and another 10 years to get over it? Or didn’t we ever get over it? (No, apparently not.)

    Is there such a lack of sense of self of individuals that this is so upsetting? Why is any woman letting someone else define what she should or should not be?

  53. sscenter on August 10, 2008 at 4:45 pm

    When I first heard Beck’s talk, I was surprised that there was such a negative reaction to it.
    What I heard her say was that, hey if your a mom you have to do the dishes, you may as well get the point that doing the dishes and other such things really matter, they are not trivial. At my own employment I hate the part of the work that often seems trivial but if I don’t do it, than I am in big trouble, so I see this as a parallel.

    I think that there is a problem only in that people want to feel as though every decision they are to make is to be validated by the church. Women are not supposed to work. They may work, they may want to work, personally I don’t think there is anything wrong with a woman working or doing whatever else they want, but it is not part of their calling as wives and mothers. My own wife has worked sporadically throughout our marriage since we had our first child. I don’t see any problem with this at all but I am the priesthood holder and it is my calling to provide for my family so I am supposed to work. My wife is very excited about our youngest going to school in August 2009 so she can go back to work. I think that is great and my only hope is that she is able to make as much money as possible. All that said, her job is to be a mother, anything else needs to be subordinant to that duty.

    I think that the job of the church is to validate what we are supposed to do, not what we might do or might want to do or not do. So I am supposed to work, but no one cares what job I have because it doesn’t matter. I am supposed to use the money I earn to provide for my children, so on and so on. I am not supposed to be the primary caregiver but I am supposed to do all I can to help my children with whatever I am able. This is what the church encourages me to do.

    Any Latter-Day Saint who does not get that in the Celestial Kingdom our only jobs will be mothers and fathers does not understand that Heavenly Mother and Father have placed our progression above all else (Moses 1:39). In doing this Heavenly Mother probably has had to sacrifice being a CPA or a Dr. but I assume she is good with what she is doing.

    Personally, I don’t know any adult women or men in the church who do not have children who do not wish above all else they could have the chance to do this. All of mine and my wife’s friends (including a few family members) in this boat would gladly give up their careers for the chance to be mothers. I think this is a problem of people not finding joy in fulfilling the Lord’s plan and assuming the problem is with the plan.

  54. RAP on August 10, 2008 at 5:56 pm

    Regardless of whether you liked her talk or not, she is a representative of the Lord that has been called of the Prophet to be a leader. Maybe the message is not hers but the Lords. Doesn\’t that change what we should do with the talk? Maybe we should be studying it and asking in prayer what we can do to follow the council given?

  55. Bookslinger on August 10, 2008 at 7:58 pm

    The brou-ha-ha of Julie Beck’s talk highlights two points to me:

    1. The Utah church or church-culture is not the same as the US church outside of Utah.

    2. Many people who grew up in the church seem to have a noticeably different view of church teachings than converts.

    After reading the posts/comments by those who didn’t like Pres Beck’s talk, I think to myself about the poster/commenter “What church did they grow up in? What church are they in now? Because that doesn’t sound like the church I attend. And that doesn’t sound like any independent-minded single women (divorced, widowed, or never-married) who I know.

  56. WillF on August 10, 2008 at 8:21 pm

    I find it interesting that we have frozen our focus on what Sister Beck said in this talk, but haven’t acknowledged that she has said anything since. I’m thinking in particular of what she said during the Roundtable in the Worldwide Leadership Training from February 2008. Here is a sample:

    Sister Beck: I was raised in a big family. My parents had a lot of children. And that means there were a lot of opinions and a lot of work to care for this family. But they used the tool of family home evening to really teach us. Every week we sang “Love at Home.” That was the opening hymn. And I remember as a teenager thinking it was really tiresome to sing that hymn every week.

    Elder Oaks: Sometimes that hymn is sung through clenched teeth.

    Elder Holland: And by assignment.

    Sister Lant: Sometimes it’s the mother’s clenched teeth.

    Sister Beck: It was more a belief than a practice. But every week, Dad would say, “Now we’ll sing our opening hymn, ‘Love at Home.’ ” And when I was about 14 or 15, in that age when you question everything, I asked my father, “Why do we have to sing this hymn every week? There are a lot of good hymns in the hymnbook we could sing.”

    And he looked at me very sternly, and he said, “When you have learned lesson 1, I will teach you lesson 2.” And I don’t know what lesson 2 was; we didn’t ever get there, but I have to say that after the passage of many years, I look at my family, and we do love one another. We did, somehow, over the years, learn to love each other because that was lesson 1 my parents wanted to teach. They didn’t try to cover everything. They knew if they started with that, it would work.

    I had a wonderful young mother approach me. She had four children under the age of six, and she said, “We are being faithful in trying to have our family scripture study every morning, but it’s just a disaster. Somebody’s always crying; they don’t pay attention.” And I said, “How long are you trying to do this?” She said, “Well, we set a goal to do 10 minutes every day.” And I said, “Well, with the audience you have, you’re probably about 8 minutes too long.” She had the pattern down, and she needed to adapt a little bit to the age of her audience. Maybe start with a picture of Adam and Eve and talk about the picture and not try to help a two-year-old read the scriptures. But she was faithful, and I loved her for that.

  57. quin on August 10, 2008 at 8:27 pm

    Ardis, I love your comments because they always seem to carry deep insight and reverence for the things of God, so something you said in #37 caught me by surprise. You attempt to accurately represent what Sister Beck “literally” said and then end that thought/paragraph with ‘this is another case of “your mortal life has no purpose except to bake cookies and babysit for other women’s children — but just you wait! When you’re dead, you’ll catch up to the real women.”

    It seems that you meant that comment “mostly” in jest, as with a prior comment, but I think it stings to have someone, especially another woman, even joke that the ability to bake cookies and babysit are the only attributes and values a woman without children can hope to rise in the resurrection with, or to insinuate that ONLY being able to be a mother in the eternities is some kind of consolation prize. That may very well be how you feel, and if it is, I’m deeply sorry, but that point of view is not in harmony with Church doctrine or the teachings of our current leaders.

    Seraphine commented that the Sunstone panel members shared a strong opinion that “one reason Julie Beck was criticized was that in the eyes of most women, she is their voice in the hierarchies of the church (making it her responsibility to speak for their experiences as women in the church).”

    This could very well be the root of the problem. Julie Beck should NOT be viewed as some kind of elected official that is supposed to represent the voices of the women of the Church to the hierarchies because that is not her calling. She is the woman God has currently chosen to lead the women of the Church and it is her responsibility to represent His voice and will to US, not the other way around.

  58. WillF on August 10, 2008 at 8:32 pm

    I’m trying to make the point that it is worth reading this because it may help soften the perception that she expects perfection. The whole Worldwide Leadership session was a relief to me when I heard it, because I think the less formal Roundtable format allowed them to show more empathy. The introduction by Elder Holland, titled General Patterns, Specific Lives also helped frame why General Authorities stress the ideal patterns of life, even though they recognize there will be specific situations.

  59. WillF on August 10, 2008 at 8:34 pm

    (I tried to sneak my last comment right after my previous comment 56, so 58 was really meant to refer to 56)

  60. Bookslinger on August 10, 2008 at 8:55 pm

    sscenter: (#53), “Any Latter-Day Saint who does not get that in the Celestial Kingdom our only jobs will be mothers and fathers does not understand that Heavenly Mother and Father have placed our progression above all else (Moses 1:39).”

    There are 3 degrees of glory in the CK. Only those in the highest degree will become parents of spirit-children. Section 76 seems to say that those in the 2nd and 3rd degrees will be servants to the exalted ones. I don’t know if there is a scriptural basis for it, but my assumption is that those in the 2nd and 3rd degrees will equal or outnumber those in the exalted degree.

    The declaration in Moses 1:39 is not exclusive or exhaustive. It does not declare that bringing to pass man’s immortality and eternal life is His only or exclusive work-and-glory. The Lord often leaves things unsaid, or intentionally leaves out qualifiers which would further narrow the scope of many principles. (For instance, some believe it possible that Elohim had previous, or will have future, “batches” of spirit children, and not wanting to inform us of that fact, left out a qualifier for Jehovah being firstborn/only-begotton as applying only to our “batch”. The concept of unspoken scope and qualifiers can be applied to several seemingly absolutist items of eternal history and time-frames from scriptures.)

    Here on earth we tend to separate our day-job/occupation from our job as parents. But in the eternities, part of the work needed to bring about the immortality and eternal life of one’s spirit children apparently also consists of creating or organizing universes, galaxies, star systems, planets, etc., and governing them somehow. Plus how an exalted being does that during their spirit children’s various phases: pre-mortal, mortal, post-mortal, and post-resurrection existance, is also unknown to us.

    According to Section 76, Jehovah, as a resurrected exalted being, will still apparently rule the Terrestrial Kingdom as one of his “jobs”. And as far as we know, the inhabitants of that kingdom are blocked from further progression. Likewise, the Holy Ghost will apparently rule the Telestial Kingdom. From my read of Section 76, they will be assisted in governing those kingdoms by inhabitants of the next higher kingdom.

    So the two points are: 1) we don’t really know whether or not all the efforts of exalted beings center around raising spirit children from the from of “intelligences” to exalted beings themselves. and 2) there is likely a far greater amount and grander sort of things involved in raising spirit children than what we can conceive of as being the “jobs of mother and father.”

    And by the way, what do Heavenly “Grandparents” do? :-) Do they retire, or do they have more batches of spirit children?

  61. quin on August 10, 2008 at 9:23 pm

    I’m glad you brought that up WillF . Not once in her talk did she say that she expected perfection, or that God expects it-yet some seem almost positive that it is what she left unsaid that really matters.

    That example shows that Elders Holland and Oaks and Sisters Lant and Beck all KNOW the reality of parenthood and family living. Sister Beck says that her family believed in “Love at Home” far better than they practiced it, and Elder Oaks bore witness of the fact that it has been sung through clenched teeth-to a worldwide audience that probably laughed when it was said. Why? Because we’ve all been there done that! Any parent that thinks that all the other parents in the world are better at it than they are-either never leaves the house or is blind and deaf to the actions and events that take place around them daily.

    I think it should be noted that the young mother did NOT approach Sister Beck and tell her that it was completely impossible to have regular scripture study with her children (they were faithfully slugging it out) nor did she request that the Church hierarchy stop counseling members to have daily scripture study because it was unrealistic. Sister Beck didn’t offer to be this young sister’s voice to the First Presidency nor did she hesitate to offer her own authoritative advice. (Nor did Oaks or Holland disagree with her counsel). She didn’t even hint that this young mother was a horrible parent who should have been able to control her shameful,screaming children-she described her as FAITHFUL and WONDERFUL because she was doing her best to be obedient.

  62. quin on August 10, 2008 at 10:21 pm

    Bookslinger, you bring up a good point, but in my experience I think that most people view their daily jobs as part of the “work” of being a parent, and so the “work” of creating worlds,and organizing galaxies and ruling universes is a necessary part of the work of being celestial parents. I believe that family life here is very much a similitude of life there.

  63. Jacob F on August 10, 2008 at 10:39 pm

    WillF, very good comments. Holland’s “General Patterns, Specific Lives” was exactly what I was thinking of as well.

  64. Ardis Parshall on August 10, 2008 at 10:42 pm

    57: quin, that (“there’s nothing for you now, but just wait until you die and you’ll have everything”) isn’t really how I feel, but it *is* what I hear so very, very often. You know, I hope, that I’m talking about what I hear as a single woman myself? that I’m not a married woman calling single women’s lives worthless?

    The truth is that we (single women) never do hear anything aimed at finding value in our mateless, childless circumstances, except for how we can be of use to families:

    * The articles to singles in this month’s Ensign were all for young dating singles still expecting to get married, not for singles who are now unlikely to marry and who need to find purpose in some other direction.
    * In my ward’s first Sunday RS lessons for July and August (taught by our RS president and counselor, with topics assigned by our bishop), we focused on the importance of family, with the only two remarks aimed at singles being “you can support families by babysitting so mothers can go to the temple or go on dates with their husbands” and “you might not have any use for this now, but listen to it so that in the hereafter you know how to be good mothers.”
    * We often hear that “no righteous woman who does not marry in this life through no fault of her own will be denied these blessings in the eternities” — an eternal promise, but not one that gives much direction for this life.
    * In the 2008 Worldwide Training linked by WillF, Elder Holland acknowledged the presence of single adults, but explained that the meeting would not be addressing us (except as children of our parents) because the family ideal was more important than our circumstances.
    * Sister Beck, as I quoted, promised us the blessings of motherhood in the next life without offering any purpose for our lives now.

    I know individual single women’s lives have great value, and I recognize that many lessons address all women, or all men and women (we all need to repent, exercise charity, pray, be chaste, and all the other things we learn), but there is never anything to teach us our value in the absence of families in the same way that Church leaders offer advice and support and counsel to families. I’m not at all minimizing the blessings to come in the eternities; but I don’t live in the eternities. I live in mortality, and need something here and now that I’m just not getting from the Church organization and teachings.

  65. Jacob F on August 10, 2008 at 10:47 pm

    Well Ardis, you have impacted me on a personal level through your posts here and at keepapitchinin.org. You must be doing something right…

  66. Ardis Parshall on August 10, 2008 at 10:53 pm

    Thank you, Jacob. Now you know, if you didn’t before, why I’m so passionate about remembering and finding value in the lives of overlooked Saints.

  67. Jim Cobabe on August 10, 2008 at 10:54 pm

    It makes me angry to hear people like Toscano and Allred presuming to represent the Church. They are not spokesmen I can respect, like Sister Beck.

  68. Jim Donaldson on August 10, 2008 at 11:23 pm

    RE: #57 Julie Beck should NOT be viewed as some kind of elected official that is
    >supposed to represent the voices of the women of the Church to the hierarchies
    >because that is not her calling. She is the woman God has currently chosen to
    >lead the women of the Church and it is her responsibility to represent His voice
    >and will to US, not the other way around.

    I may misunderstand this, but when I was the bishop of our ward, I felt this was a two way street. I did think that I was the Lord’s representative for the ward and that I had a responsibility to pass along what I thought he was teaching me. BUT I also thought that I was also (perhaps wrongly?) an advocate for “my people” (i.e., my ward) with both the Lord in some cases, both as individuals and as a group, and with the stake in many more.

    I took my cue from Moses, who seems to view the process (in obviously a much more important setting) as running both ways. All the prophets that I can think of felt the need to be the advocate for their people.

    In fact, I think one of the ways Abraham proved his worthiness to be God’s patriarch was by negotiating with God over Sodom. I like the idea of the prophet dickering with God. When you love the people, that’s what you do. On the other hand, on his way up the hill with Isaac, Abraham had enough sense to be very quiet. What could be said?

    I think SIster Beck loves the people and gladly fills both roles. I don’t view her “Mothers Who Know” talk as an abdication of either. That she may not advocate what her detractors wish is not her problem and doesn’t mean that the women of the church have no one to give voice to their concerns. We have no idea what she says in the private councils of the church.

  69. NOYDMB on August 10, 2008 at 11:45 pm

    Thanks to Ardis, WillF, Quin. Some of your comments have really given me insight into how to support the women of the church, and the general RS President, better without yielding to the alternate voices.

  70. MoJo on August 10, 2008 at 11:49 pm

    The truth is that we (single women) never do hear anything aimed at finding value in our mateless, childless circumstances

    Ardis, this is why I didn’t go to church those years and indulged my intellectual pursuits wildly.

    “you can support families by babysitting so mothers can go to the temple or go on dates with their husbands”

    I never heard this, but see above comment. Didn’t go to church. I don’t know how you do it, Ardis. Really.

  71. quin on August 11, 2008 at 12:19 am

    Forgive this if this seems like overkill, but out of sheer frustration/curiosity, I decided to determine what it is exactly the mothers Sister Beck refers to “KNOW”. And then I decided to list the attributes that a woman who knows then develops and exhibits. I can’t find one thing on the list that is offensive or undesirable even to the most liberal reader, and the Savior of the world exhibited most (if not all) of them.

    First-what is it that “mothers” know?

    They know who they are and who God is.

    Because they know who they are and who God is, they:
    Make covenants with God.
    They have great power and influence for good upon their children.
    Desire to bear children and work toward that blessing, even if they are not given the responsibility in mortality.
    They value motherhood (regardless of whether or not they personally bear children in mortality) and work to obtain attributes of motherhood that will rise with them in the Resurrection.
    They honor sacred ordinances and covenants.
    They point their children towards the temple.
    They are nurturers, and nurturing means to cultivate, care for and make grow. It also includes organization, love, patience and work.
    They create a climate for spiritual and temporal growth in their homes.
    They cook, wash dishes and clothes, and keep an orderly home. (she does not say this happens daily, on schedule, or with perfect regularity)
    They work beside their children to teach and model qualities children should emulate.
    They are knowledgeable, but they realize that all the education they attain will avail them nothing if they do not have the skill to make a home that creates a climate for spiritual growth.
    They pattern their homes after the Lord’s house, which is a house of order.* putting one’s house in order doesn’t always mean tidiness. It can also mean to prepare for the future, to set priorities correctly, to establish rules in accordance with God’s rules. Does anyone really want a “house of confusion”?*
    They are leaders.
    They have an equal partnership with their husbands.
    They lead a great and eternal organization (family)
    They plan for the future of that organization.
    They build children into future leaders
    They are examples of what leadership looks like.
    They do not succumb to social pressure or worldly models of parenting.
    They are selective about their own activities and conserve their energies for what matters most.(sounds like these women know how to say “No” and refuse to be “everything to everyone”)
    They are teachers.
    They do less and permit less that will not bear eternal fruit.
    They allow less media and distraction in their homes, and limit activities that draw their children away from home.
    They are willing to live on less and consume less of the world’s goods in order to spend more time with their children.
    They spend more time eating, reading, working, talking and laughing with their children.
    They choose carefully and do not try to choose it all.
    Their goal is to prepare a rising generation of children who will take the gospel to all the world.
    Their goal is to prepare the mothers and fathers that will build God’s kingdom in the future.
    They know and love the Lord.
    They bear testimony of Him.
    They are strong and immovable.
    They do not give up during difficult and discouraging times.
    They believe in and follow an inspired prophet.
    They will become the very best in the world at upholding, nurturing, and protecting families.(she uses future tense-indicating it’s a process and not something expected immediately)

    Again, I think this list describes amazing, strong, intelligent, persistent, important, influential women who make sound decisions, have a firm grasp of what it means to be a daughter of royalty, and a personal understanding of God. Anyone who thinks this list describes slavery of any kind is an idiot.

  72. Seraphine on August 11, 2008 at 12:26 am

    I think Jim’s qualification is important to keep in mind–I think that church leaders operate both as mouthpieces for the experiences of their followers and as mouthpieces for God. Also, part of what I’m speaking to is that it doesn’t make sense for a leader to advocate things that don’t fit the experiences of a large portion of their audience.

    BTW, it’s great to hear that Julie Beck has been more understanding in other circumstances, but in the particular talk under discussion, she said, “Latter-day Saint women should be the very best in the world at upholding, nurturing, and protecting families.” And as Ardis pointed out earlier, her talk set up some very concrete ways for women to compare themselves to other women and feel worse about themselves, two things women already have way too many problems with.

    Anyway, one thing to keep in mind is that the presenters on this panel weren’t there to offer strong critiques of President Beck’s talk–they primarily used her talk as a jumping off point for a conversation on how we discuss motherhood in the church. Also, it felt like they were trying to make sense of why many women were so upset after Beck’s talk (which included a lot of women who are orthodox and conservative).

  73. quin on August 11, 2008 at 1:34 am

    Ardis,

    For what it’s worth, I would apply ALL of the things I said in my last paragraph to you. Amazing, strong, intelligent, persistent, important and influential. I don’t know you personally, but I get the sense that you grasp that you are a daughter of royalty and that you have a personal understanding of God.

    I hope you won’t mind me giving you a small part of my own perspective. I am a wife and mother, and while I am humbled and honored to have been granted that blessing, there are days (far more than you might suspect) in which I am convinced that me being a mother is more a product of some eternal computer glitch than anything else. But that is not my point.

    When I read, study, ponder the gospel, and try to apply it to my life, I RARELY do it from the context of “mother”. Maybe no one else who is a mother does, but I suspect that if I conducted a poll among my LDS friends, I’d find I’m not alone. I believe in every fiber of my being that I am here to work out my own salvation. Not my families, not my spouses. But mine alone. I view the commandments and doctrines of the gospel on the most encompassing level as applying to me FIRST as an individual, and only in part to me as a “mother”. In other words, I personally feel and believe that the reason I have any value at all is because I am the daughter of a God. Nothing I can create or achieve in this world can ever give me as much value as that one attribute, and nothing can increase or decrease that value. I can marry or not, divorce or remarry, have children, not have children, obtain 40 college degrees or never attend high school. This value is static, it exists as an eternal constant because it originated in an eternal being.

    You said * We often hear that “no righteous woman who does not marry in this life through no fault of her own will be denied these blessings in the eternities” — an eternal promise, but not one that gives much direction for this life”.

    First, just because I am married and have born children on earth does not guarantee that I will keep those blessings in eternity. In fact, I could lose one or all of my children AND my spouse should they (or I) not prove worthy. I was about to say that you and I stand on perfectly equal ground sistah friend, but I’m actually wondering if YOU don’t have an actual advantage over me. You have everything to gain and (due to a lack here in mortality) nothing to lose in the eternities. You prove yourself worthy and you will leave the pain and emptiness you feel now behind because you are pretty much guaranteed a righteous and celestial spouse AND endless offspring and glory. I on the other hand have much to lose and would spend eternity with pain and emptiness in my heart if my mortal spouse and/or children do not choose exaltation with me-even if I was also given another spouse and endless offspring.

    Second, if we consider all of the scriptures in our canon and all of the teachings of the Church, what percentage of the whole could we honestly say only applies to the lives of those who are married? Under “Marry, Marriage” in the lds.org Guide to the Scriptures, I count 41 references and under “Mother” there are only 14. This means that the rest of our scriptures are dedicated to things other than marriage and motherhood, and all of those things are meant to give direction for this life,to ALL of us.

    You and I have been given the exact same direction/instructions for this life even if our personal experiences/tests/trials are different. We’re commanded to do the exact same things-learn how to be patient, how to be loving, how to teach, how to strive for exaltation, how to find happiness no matter what our circumstances, how to help each other return to our Heavenly Father so we can sit down with Him and determine which one of us had it worse than the other! *grin* You’ll tell Dad that you feel it was unfair that you never found love and companionship and I’ll tell Him that I feel it was unfair that I never found the bottom of the laundry hamper or a place in my house where no one could find me. But I suspect that when that time comes, neither one of will consider the past to be nearly as important as the future.

  74. Laura Dulin on August 11, 2008 at 2:04 am

    #49 Juliann, I loved and really relate to your thoughts. thank you. I can\’t quite put my finger on \”the message\” either but in trying to explain my \”feminist\” concerns to my husband once, I asked him to imagine if Joseph Smith in the role of restorer had been a woman — he wasn\’t just given a restoration manual — revelation came in a process of initiating specific questions — so what might the questions of importance from a female perspective be and then look like when petioned, explored and expounded in official LDS scripture? and what would the implications be?

    That said, I wish we were all discussing President Beck\’s talk that she gave as counselor in the General Young Womens Presidency that encouraged young women to develop spiritual gifts emphasizing the gift of healing at one point — I want us to be talking more about that.

  75. quin on August 11, 2008 at 2:28 am

    Seraphine,

    Just one more thought and I’ll shut up. Promise.

    “Also, part of what I’m speaking to is that it doesn’t make sense for a leader to advocate things that don’t fit the experiences of a large portion of their audience.”

    First, what one might consider a “large portion” should be viewed in context with the actual percentage of the audience they represent. It seems as if a significantly larger portion agree with what she advocates and either they do fit their experiences or they are working to make their experiences fit what is advocated.

    Second, why these things don’t fit the experiences of this portion has to be examined. Are the things this leader is advocating proven time and again to be beyond the scope of the average person? Are they distasteful and undesirable? Or does this large number of women simply choose NOT to make the things advocated a part of their life experience?

    I’m sorry, but it is the devil that seeks to make all men (women) miserable like unto himself. It is his influence that makes us feel inferior or insecure or incapable of obtaining salvation through obedience and hard work. And the less we do, the worse we feel. Satan is the author of chaos and confusion and his influence thrives in our homes when they are in chaos and disorder. The only thing that drives him out of our lives and homes is to grow our faith and work to become better, more obedient and more deserving. A woman who is doing her very best and who has a close relationship with the Savior has absolutely no rational reason to compare herself to another or feel bad about herself, so she simply doesn’t. Self esteem comes from within and no one else has the ability to override our agency and “make” us feel anything.

    Yes, the things Sister Beck advocates aren’t easy to accomplish-are we such weak willed females that we shouldn’t be expected to tackle hard things? Yes, Sister Beck seems to have quite high expectations of us, but are the young men and women the only ones who need the bar raised? We will never obtain a celestial glory unless we can live a celestial law, but because God is gracious and loving His plan allows for a reward and a glory for everyone, according to the law they are willing to live.

  76. m&m on August 11, 2008 at 3:05 am

    My comment got too long, so I decided to flesh out my thoughts in a post on my blog (also at BoJ).

  77. Seraphine on August 11, 2008 at 3:24 am

    quin, no worries.

    I do think a lot of women agreed with her, probably even a larger percentage than those who felt upset upon hearing her talk. And that’s fine. Personally, there were talks I’ve heard in GC that have freaked me out a lot more than this one. However, I heard a lot of feedback after the talk from women who were bothered and/or upset to wish that President Beck had been a little more cautious about some of what she said. It made me profoundly sad to hear women who have chosen to be stay-at-home mothers, and who have faithfully dedicated their lives to raising their children, describe that upon hearing this talk, they began to sob and/or beat themselves up about their mothering skills.

    A woman who is doing her very best and who has a close relationship with the Savior has absolutely no rational reason to compare herself to another or feel bad about herself, so she simply doesn’t. Self esteem comes from within and no one else has the ability to override our agency and “make” us feel anything.

    Yes, a woman may have no rational reason to compare herself to other women, but most of us aren’t rational (I certainly am not rational quite a large percentage of the time). It’s one thing to tell yourself that you’re doing the best that you can, and it’s quite another to believe it and emotionally internalize that belief. If there’s one thing that I think typifies many women’s experience it’s feelings of guilt and shame (that they’re not a better mother, that they can’t do it all, etc.). When I listened to President Beck’s talk, I thought “I’m not a mother; this doesn’t really apply to me right now,” and I didn’t really go back and pay attention to what she said until I read and heard of responses of many faithful, SAHMs who cried after hearing this talk. Part of me believes in the power of strong words, but I think we (and I’m including myself in this) have to figure out how to express them in such a way as to inspire rather than make people feel worse about themselves (and my observations after Beck gave her talk was that there were quite a few women who felt worse about themselves and not very inspired).

    Anyway, the point I was trying to make is that there are many women dealing with difficult life circumstances (poverty, children with disabilities, debilitating health problems, etc.) who may be lucky to get their children to church on Sunday, let alone in white shirts with missionary haircuts. And I wish President Beck (like Elder Ballard did in his talk in April) made more acknowledgement that we all deal with challenges that make living up to certain ideals difficult, and that sometimes women need to cut themselves some slack and be kind to themselves (and I’m grateful to others who have pointed out that she has done this in other circumstances).

    (Of course, I have some uneasiness with Beck’s ideals, but I’ll leave that point for another day, since it’s not what I was discussing above.)

  78. Jonovitch on August 11, 2008 at 4:36 am

    quin, your list in comment 71 sums it up perfectly — this is being waaaay overblown. This is incredibly much ado about nothing.

    To make sure I knew what I was getting into before I read these comments, I re-read Sister Beck’s talk to find out what harsh, tyrannical words she spoke. Other than the one line about cooking, cleaning, etc. (oh, the humanity!), I couldn’t find a thing that might be objectionable. Even that horrid, oppressive paragraph about “homemaking” is set in the light of creating “a climate for spiritual growth.”

    Are people really accusing her of using specific examples to depress the women of the Church?! Silly me, I always thought that detailed descriptions of individual events or people were rhetorical devices called “illustrations” that are used to add flavor to an otherwise dull lecture filled with nothing but grand philosophical aphorisms. I’ll be sure to use fewer of these nefarious illustrations in my next talk, and I’ll counsel all my deacons to do the same. (Perhaps the First Presidency should issue a letter about these, too?)

    quin, I’m glad you pointed out so clearly what was so easily misrepresented when Sister Beck delivered her talk the first time. I think some people might be guilty of intentionally misunderstanding and blatantly ripping from their context her plain, clear words.

    Tempest in a teapot; mountain out of a molehole; big fat stink from a silent bit of gas. Really.

    Jon

    P.S. I was Mr. Mom all last week since my wife was at girls’ camp. Cleaned the house, did the laundry, cooked the meals, bathed the kids, went to playgroup with the other moms, watered the garden, managed the finances, went to T-ball, organized a National Night Out party, etc., etc., etc. Never found a moment of it demeaning or without value. I enjoyed it, and I’d be happy to do it more often, even permanently. (Besides, I already did it for years while we were both in school.) It is shameful that some people (mostly women, you must admit) try to insist that working at home with children is oppressive, unimportant, or valueless. Talk about insulting and demeaning. But then again, I’m just a man, and what do they know?

  79. Jonovitch on August 11, 2008 at 4:47 am

    P.P.S. Seraphine (77), I agree with most of what you said in your comment just above mine. I, too, felt bad to hear about work-at-home moms who were upset to the point of tears. No mother doing her best needs to feel so badly about what she’s doing well. She needs a big scoop of encouragement topped with support and sprinkled with love. (I think some struggling mothers might have been projecting their own overwhelming expectations [or the expectations they think others have of them] onto Sister Beck’s words.)

    And that’s where Elder Ballard’s talk came in. The two talks were essentially the same message, but often it is not what you say, rather how you say it. Still, I don’t find anything objectionable in what Sister Beck said, and not much wrong with how she said it.

    Jon

  80. Jonovitch on August 11, 2008 at 4:59 am

    Ardis (64), your comment made me think of a middle-aged single man in my ward who has done plenty to help me. He recently produced one of the best youth firesides I’ve seen since I’ve been involved in YM, and he is always willing to help in any way wherever he can. He’s a bit of an odd duck but definitely a good, good man, and I’m glad to know him. (I’m also very good friends with a married woman my age who might never bear her own children, and I think about her, too, any time motherhood is mentioned.)

    I also noticed a few of the same things you pointed out (Ensign, worldwide training mtg., Sis. Beck’s talk, etc.). Thank you for sharing your insight and perspective and for reminding me of my friends.

    Jon

  81. Naismith on August 11, 2008 at 7:31 am

    “….but there is never anything to teach us our value in the absence of families in the same way that Church leaders offer advice and support and counsel to families.”

    Could that possibly be because being a family is so difficult that it requires that extra counsel?

    Ardis, I am jealous as anything of your single state. I had no desire to marry or have children. I would not have, except that I joined the church and had to out of obedience. I love my husband and children but being married is the hardest thing I have ever done in life (I’m an Army vet and did a challenging grad school program) and having children is the second-hardest.

    I could find all kinds of wonderful ways to contribute to the building of the kingdom if I were single, just as you have done. I would be much happier, I am sure. I would consider it much more comfortable.

    Sisters can serve a full-time mission at any age. Any age. Think of how much we are valued to be the only class in the church to have that blessing. I’ve known single sisters to serve as primary prez, RS prez etc. and single men to serve in the bishopric.

    Your comments sound very whiny to me, since you have such an abundance of blessings and have the promise of eternal life without having to actually live with a man.

  82. Ardis Parshall on August 11, 2008 at 7:49 am

    Your comments sound very whiny to me, since you have such an abundance of blessings and have the promise of eternal life without having to actually live with a man.

    This has to be the stupidest comment ever made on any thread at any blog. This discussion has jumped the shark, and I’m outta here.

  83. Researcher on August 11, 2008 at 9:10 am

    I learned in a very personal way over the past couple of years that the easiest and fastest way to wound someone is to tell them how they feel, how they should feel, or why how they’re feeling is wrong.

    It happened a number of times to us while we went through a major crisis involving a child’s health. “You’re so brave” was just as difficult to handle as the expectation from our ward and my in-laws that we should be doing more regardless of our dramatically changed circumstances.

    Being told, “You’re doing so well,” wounds deeply when you’re feeling abandoned or attacked by those who theoretically should be supportive. In the perfect circumstance that all the ward and all our family had rallied around us, perhaps being told that “You’re such an example of faith,” would be appropriate, but when I felt deeply the lack of a supportive church family (small, overstretched ward) and the distance from our extended families that made their ability to help come at almost too great a cost, my happy feelings toward the church stretched under all the trite statements of what I should be feeling in perfect circumstances.

    As a side note, another conference talk that also drove me to tears was the one from the presiding bishopric telling about how wards rallied around people in crisis. As we struggled through day to day or week to week during that time, the thought of people being willing to pitch in like that without being begged for help (and begged and begged repeatedly sometimes without any help coming) shocked my whole system and worldview.

    Perhaps, this is one of the roots of the objection to this conference talk. In the midst of everyone’s crises, we were told how to feel and that if we just tried harder, we would all be living a perfect middle-class, ironed and starched, happy smiling existence with happy smiling children. That is untrue for many, many people and a happy, smiling woman living a perfect life (so we judge without knowing whether it is the case) with nice children and a nice husband standing up in conference and telling us that if we just try harder we too can be standing next to a cute little smiling boy with a bottle of windex, happily cleaning a window just strikes people in their vulnerable spot.

    And finally, I’ve generally respected Naismith and her comments in many places, but telling someone that you’re better because you have to struggle through life living with your husband and children is tactless to say the least.

  84. Ray on August 11, 2008 at 9:22 am

    “Your comments sound very whiny to me, since you have such an abundance of blessings and have the promise of eternal life without having to actually live with a man.”

    If I believed in swearing, I’d be doing it now. Holy cow! Now even this thread has turned to a “my life as a woman is worse than your life as a woman” fight. A single sister is better off than a married sister – in a thread talking about Sister Beck’s talk about mothers?!

    Wow. Just, wow. I’ll simply repeat my #5:

    I’m tired of the whole debate – and, mostly, that it always turns into a debate. That’s just sad.

  85. Julie M. Smith on August 11, 2008 at 11:09 am

    “Your comments sound very whiny to me, since you have such an abundance of blessings and have the promise of eternal life without having to actually live with a man.”

    I’m not sure who got smacked harder by that one–Mr. Naismith or Ardis–but in any case, that comment was completely inappropriate.

  86. Gerald Smith on August 11, 2008 at 11:14 am

    I think too many LDS expect a General Conference talk to represent what they particularly experience. It won’t. I’ve heard Pres Packer and several other General Authorities explain that they teach the principle, not the exceptions. Are there exceptions? Of course there are. But their main job is to teach us the celestial view of things.

    Margaret Toscano and others can complain on this all day long (as she obviously has now for 2 decades), but they never seem to seek the mature way of viewing a talk as Sister Beck’s. Instead of attacking it, perhaps the responsible and mature thing is to study the article and prayerfully determine how it fits into one’s personal life.

    We men have to do this all the time. When Pres Kimball, Pres Benson, or Pres Hinckley chews out the men in General Priesthood session over how we treat our wives and children, or fail in our home teaching, or fail somewhere else, we don’t go to Sunstone or the Bloggernacle and whine. We quietly review what is said and seek to determine how to apply it in our personal lives.

    Perhaps that is why the Brethren do not get attacked as much as Sister Beck right now. Had Sister Beck emphasized the responsibility of men as Fathers, do you suspect there would have been a session at Sunstone over that? I highly doubt it.

  87. Researcher on August 11, 2008 at 11:22 am

    “We quietly review what is said and seek to determine how to apply it in our personal lives.”

    Or ignore it. Or become inactive.

  88. Tiffany on August 11, 2008 at 11:40 am

    Naismith, no one is forced to get married. You may have felt cultural pressure to marry, but you didn’t have to. Don’t be angry at others for your own choices.

    And what an appalling comment to Ardis.

  89. jane on August 11, 2008 at 11:41 am

    Naismith – My heart goes out to you. It sounds like your marriage is a source of pain for you. I hope for you and your husband blessings and help and healing. Sometimes, our own trials consume us, and we lose touch with our ability to empathize with others.

    Ardis – Thank you for articulating your experiences so well. It makes me want to put more thought into my lessons and talks and comments at church. I know I have a tendency to see the world from my own perspective (married, SAHM). I’ve probably said things that reflect my own life experiences and leave others feeling that my words are, at best, irrelevant, and at worst, hurtful.

  90. bbell on August 11, 2008 at 11:57 am

    Gerald Smith makes a very relevant comment. Men are regularly called to repentance esp in Saturday night Pmtg’s. There is little or no reaction from the men in the bloggernaccle except perhaps words supporting the GA who did the thrashing and condemnation for man who fail to heed their words/principles. Contrast that with the firestorm over this talk in the bloggernaccle. FWIW it caused no firestorm in my ward or amongst my female extended family members.

  91. sscenter on August 11, 2008 at 11:58 am

    Gerald Smith -

    Thank you, that was absolutely correct.

    I think then a leader like sister Beck is at a disadvantage because by the time a man has assumed the role of president of the twelve or of the church we have thirty to forty years of his writings and talks to gain a perspective on any one talk or statement they give. For the leaders of the women’s groups they do not have nearly the number of chances to speak, nor is their’s a lifetime appointment. This give us much less context for us as members to relate to them.

    I think the speaking out of women over the last several years has been very positive generally. Women now feel as though they have much more of a voice but they should recognize along with the men that any individual complaining does very little to actually change anything. I have all sorts of things I would like to change but no one is listening to me. We should all recognize that the church is not a democracy, nor anything like it. No one person, male or female has much of a voice to enact change with only a few exceptions.

    I work in the field of addictions and have for years. I went to my high councilman and discussed with him a program regarding pornography that our stake was beginning to run. I offered to discuss the program with those running it, offering my expertise of working with addicts as a therapist. I was kindly informed that the stake presidency had this under control and I was not needed, but thanks. So my personal experience, my training, my education, do not give me any additional say on a issue that I am trained to be an expert on. So I don’t really expect to have any say on any issues that I simply have an opinion of. This is not discrimination against me for any reason including my gender, it is simply the way the Lord’s program works.

  92. Gerald Smith on August 11, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    One last question from me regarding Sunstone’s panel, since I wasn’t able to attend. Were all the panel members advocates against Sister Beck’s talk? Or were some “true blue” Sister Beck supporters also included on the panel? Janice Allred and Margaret Toscano are intelligent women, but hardly someone to speak on behalf of Sister Beck.

    Did the Sunstone management think to invite Sister Beck or a Church representative to discuss the background of the talk? Was Sister Beck asked for comments to clarify her talk, as part of the discussion? Was anyone (besides the first commenter) given a chance to discuss things from this viewpoint? Or was the discussion dominated by feminists, several of whom were not members of the Church?

    If Sunstone is going to state they present all sides in their discussion, I would hope they ensured that this panel was represented by all sides in the discussion.

  93. Kiskilili on August 11, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    Gerald, the panel wasn’t a specific response to President Beck but ranged over a number of topics in which President Beck and various other leaders were quoted, and the panelists definitely presented a range of views. I’m fairly certain none of them would self-identify as a “conservative” or “traditionalist” Mormon (although some were faithful members), so I agree they did not cover the spectrum of attitudes toward these issues, but my impression of Sunstone is that they would be thrilled to hear a traditionalist voice. All they can do is open the door; they can’t force people through it. If you’re interested, why not contact Sunstone about presenting a defense of President Beck’s talk yourself at next year’s symposium?

  94. Juliann on August 11, 2008 at 1:05 pm

    Mojo, I do remember being told that singles could participate in motherhood by helping mothers. It was quite common years ago and I am dismayed that Ardis is hearing it still. I hate babysitting and always have. I wondered if the married couples were going to come to my house to do the repairs, chores and tasks that singles are left to do alone…or simply provide the assurance of another person there to deal with life’s problems. Perhaps Ardis should request that married couples proof read for her as a service in her important work. It makes me angry still even thinking about the presumptuousness of relegating single women to teen or nanny status (does anyone think they are expecting single men to babysit?) based on marital status rather than circumstance. Although I have been divorced and widowed, I have spent the majority of my adult life single so I identify with that status although I probably blend in more easily because I had a child and the widow label carries perqs. I agree with Ardis’ evaluation although I do think that the Ensign singles article talks some to those who will remain single. However, they embed it rather than highlight it (a metaphor for the Mormon single life) so lifer singles are left cherry picking for their church identity…and sometimes their life identity if girls are taught to depend on a knight in white armor rather than themselves as they prepare for their future.

  95. fmhjanet on August 11, 2008 at 1:10 pm

    Y’all might want to consider the radical possibility that the Deseret News Article wasn’t entirely accurate in reflected the spirit of all–or even any–of the talks at the Sunstone session. I certainly didn’t feel like the quotations culled from my remarks reflected the full scope of what I addressed, and am aghast to find myself pilloried all over the DN site for things I don’t even believe. That’s the risk of public speaking, though.

  96. fmhjanet on August 11, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    #9 — I’m sorry you found my remark disengenous. It wasn’t. I did not lock myself in the bathroom and cry, nor was my response to Sister Beck’s talk particularly fiery in any direction upon first encountering it. Certainly not all my conservative friends cried their eyes out–but I can think of at least 5 immediately who did. I’m glad you found the talk validating, but assuming all those who share your side of the political line would feel likewise reflect shoddy thinking.

    Actually, I’m with Ray: I’m pretty tired of the conversation as it relates to President Beck’s remarks, which is why I didn’t talk much about her. I’d like to move the conversation past one conference address and talk about motherhood and fatherhood together (and I’m glad the DN noted my hope that we can incorporate fatherhood into the discussion. The recent leadership conference did a nice job of that, I thought).

  97. fmhjanet on August 11, 2008 at 1:20 pm

    One last thing: Amen to Ardis Parshall’s comment regarding imagery! Amen, amen, amen! This is why I disagree with Margaret Toscano that there was no substantive difference between Elder Nelson’s recent explication of motherhood and President Beck’s remarks. I’m all for imagery, but I’d rather it expand than limit our horizons or sense of possibility. I don’t doubt–and never have–that President Beck meant the strongest portion of her talk to be the “[motherhood] is influence, [motherhood] is power” bit. And of course, it is. It’s not the only kind of influence or power, nor the only kind women should hold in the world, but it is power and power writ large when accorded real rather than solely symbolic respect. Unfortunately, her choice of imagery innervated the central portion of her message for many, many people. And caused a lot of grieving. Which is too bad. I’m sure she didn’t intend that. But someone who critically parses her rhetoric and ways it might subvert the sense of empowerment we believe she was trying to invest women with aren’t threatening motherhood, for crying out loud.

    And now I’m off to the doctor’s office. As it happens, I couldn’t even see the audience nor feel the right side of my body during the presentation, so I’m in for an MRI and spinal tap today. If I said anything truly bizarre, somebody let me know and I’ll try to explain. I’m horrified by the possibility that I rambled, you know, even more than usual :) .

  98. Researcher on August 11, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    Best wishes to you, Janet.

  99. Jenilyn on August 11, 2008 at 1:37 pm

    I’m a single, LDS woman, very active in the church. I’ve had to learn that whatever anybody says, I can choose how I feel. Sister Beck’s talk did not make anybody feel bad – they chose to feel that way. As human beings we seem to see the negative in everything and be quick to take offense. I say people, including women, create their own feelings and destiny. People need to get over themselves and learn to be happy with the choices they make. Also, take most of what you hear & read with a grain of salt – there is always an equal and opposing view. Anybody remember opposition in all things!

  100. ZD Eve on August 11, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    Janet, yikes! Good luck and best wishes for recovery and health.

  101. Kiskilili on August 11, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    Y’all might want to consider the radical possibility that the Deseret News Article wasn’t entirely accurate in reflected the spirit of all–or even any–of the talks at the Sunstone session.

    This is undoubtedly the case! And hooray for Janet for making several cogent points even as she was on the verge of hospitalization. I can attest that what she said on the panel is absolutely true: her 15-month-old (Muffin) is a cherub. (Best of luck at the doctor’s office.)

  102. Confutus on August 11, 2008 at 1:59 pm

    Over here in the corner enjoying the show with grim amusement are a few divorced men. Handed a script for our lives that we couldn’t follow? Laden with guilt? Marginalized by Church preaching and policy? Tell us about it, sisters. Tell us ALL about it.

  103. Yet Another John on August 11, 2008 at 2:10 pm

    One thing is for sure: Sister Beck did the bloggernacle a favor. People are still getting mileage out of her talk.

  104. Raymond Takashi Swenson on August 11, 2008 at 2:58 pm

    I have an adult daughter, mother of five who puts all her time into raising them, including home schooling. She has about a year of college, but her own self-study and broad reading leads people to think she has at least a BA. She is an aspiring writer who is frustrated a bit because some of her best ideas have appeared suddenly as published books written by other people.

    I also have a daughter-in-law who has two children and is also a database manager for a medium size company. She has a BA and has considered pursuing an MA. Both of them are very organized, in their own ways. Both of them are teachers in their wards’ young women program. As far as I can tell, neither resents nor is jealous of the other, and neither was distressed in any way by Julie Beck’s talk or its transcribed version in the Ensign.

    I know both of them have heard criticism of their lives from other LDS women. My daugher gets it from women who tell her she has too many children and should work outside the home. My daughter-in-law hears it from women who tell her she should be a stay-at-home mom (she in fact would love it if my son earned enough to replace the net income that is produced by her work).

    I have always been mystified by the extent to which many women are more harsh in their judgments of self and of others than men are. My observation is that those who are most critical of others are not very self-critical. Somehow the whole cultural custom that American society has about allowing women to talk about and to each other in a critical fashion is not something that men (thank goodness) have adopted. We criticise each other in the context of specific accountability, either in Church or at work, but men do not feel they have any kind of default charter to tell off another guy about how to run his life or career or family. In many of the posts on timesandseasons.org, the topic is the contrast between the core Gospel and the cultural practices that are often attached to the Gospel on the outside, but are not really part of it. I would like to suggest that the hypercriticality of women toward themselves and others (including sometimes their husbands and children) is one of those cultural artifacts that needs to be excised from the lives of LDS women. Being criticism-prone is clearly related to the problems about body image that generate travesties like anorexia and bulemia.

    Certainly we all need to spend time on self-reflection about where we stand compared to God’s expectation for us. That is one of the functions of the Sacrament. At the same time, if we don’t understand the function of God’s grace and charity towards us, and his expectation that we will have similar grace and charity toward others, we can get caught up into a Pharisee-like contest of perfectionism that no one can honestly win. The great teaching of Ether 12:27 is that we ALL have seriously weaknesses, and that the only way we overcome them is NOT through gritting our teeth and becoming Rambo Christian, but through utter humility and dependence on God’s love and grace and forgiveness. The meaning of 2 Nephi 25:23 is not that we don’t merit God’s grace until we have expended all our own resources, but rather that when we are striving to do what God wants us to do, while seeking God’s help, it is God’s ongoing grace that helps us to accomplish the things he commands us to do (1 Nephi 3:7).

    All of the things that Sister Beck asks Mormon Mothers to strive for are things that, almost by definition, are impossible through human effort and skill alone, and only can be accomplished by full humble cooperation with and dependence upon God. We deserve neither condemnation for being inadequate nor praise for being accomplished. We do deserve love and mutual forgiveness, because in forgiving us, God has given us the capacity to forgive others, as well as ourselves.

    Traditional Christianity often condemns Eve for placing us in the predicament of having children in such a faulty society. The Restored Gospel teaches us that Eve herself rejoiced in the difficult work of having a family because she had perspective on how Christ would help her life to be fruitful in the long run. Yes, many of the rewards are in the future, but seeing that vision should transform so many mundane things we experience with an illumination of their true eternal significance, just as we should see our screaming children as precious sons and daughters of God who, like us, suffer from limited understanding and poor impulse control. God forgives us of so much; can we not forgive our own children?

  105. Last Lemming on August 11, 2008 at 4:01 pm

    I was kindly informed that the stake presidency had this under control and I was not needed,

    They wish.

  106. quin on August 11, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    I said I’d shut up. I know.

    Naismith is not a “Mr.”…just so you know Julie. *g*

    Ardis feels a lot of deep pain because of things in her life she cannot control, and Naismith feels her own deep pain. Sometimes instead of bearing one another’s burdens and learning from another person’s perspective, when we’re hurting and we feel like someone is poking sticks at us, we snarl and fight back. I’d like to think that both women are smart enough to look past the remarks on both sides and cut each other some slack with forgiving hearts.

    Something I’ve noticed, that perhaps we can all work on, is trying to be more honest about how we represent others. So often these days it seems that many people simply cannot take anyone’s words at face value or trust that some people actually do mean exactly what they say. Period. Why do people literally act like they have the ability (and the stewardship) to read the speaker’s mind or probe their souls, accurately determine what deep, dark motivations lurk where they cannot be observed, and then inform anyone who will listen that what the speaker SAID is not what they MEANT. The scriptures call misrepresenting others bearing false witness, and when we ignore this commandment, it is our own mistaken assumptions, and the images we create in our own heads, that make us angry-not what was actually said.

    The pure and ennobling principles of the gospel must be spoken. Sometimes they can be softened, sometimes they can’t. They cannot be diluted or changed simply because they make us uncomfortable or reveal areas in our personal lives that we have neglected. Part of their purpose is to DO exactly that, alert us that something is broken or undone so we can fix it and move forward. One of the hardest truths I’ve ever had to embrace is this: With extremely rare exception, where I am (emotionally, physically, spiritually, financially) at any given time in my adult life is the direct result of the choices I have made or am making.

  107. Martin Willey on August 11, 2008 at 5:25 pm

    Quin: I don’t think Julie was suggesting that Naismith had smacked herself.

  108. quin on August 11, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    Followed Michelle’s link to her blog in post #76 and just want to say that anyone that doesn’t take a moment to do the same and read her words with an open heart is missing out completely. I wish there was some way to make her blog post the default response whenever this topic comes up! Way to go m&m!!! Brilliant.

  109. Dave on August 11, 2008 at 6:26 pm

    Thanks for your comments, everyone. I guess saying Pres. Beck’s talk is still spurring debate is an understatement. The discussion is continuing in Julie’s post “Single Purpose.”

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