Author: Rachel Whipple

Post Holiday Reflections

I enjoyed the holidays this year, but I am glad they are over. The tree is no longer shedding needles in our living room, and the few lights and garlands we hung have been taken down. We celebrated a simple Christmas here, with very few decorations other than the nativities and the tree.  We exchanged few gifts. We are trying to teach our children to be thoughtful and discriminating in what they choose to give each other rather than buying every single thing they think (rightly) that their siblings would enjoy. I remember a Christmas ten years ago. We were staying in our graduate student apartment for the holidays because I was too pregnant to travel. It would be our first Christmas alone with our little toddler, and I was so excited. We made origami and crocheted ornaments for our little tree and I sewed and stuffed a nativity set for our son to play with. We picked out two gifts to give him–one book and one toy. A few days before Christmas, our Relief Society president called and asked if she could drop off something for us. I was shocked when she started unloading the back of her SUV, which was filled with food from the Bishop’s Storehouse, diapers, detergent, and wrapped gifts. I protested that surely, this must be a mistake, there are other families who need this more than we did. I was hurt at the thought…

O Come, All Ye Faithful

“O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant.” My eyes started welling up as we sang in church this morning. I want to answer the call to come, but I don’t know that I can call myself faithful. So often, I feel my lack of faith, my doubt, my cynicism. And I work all the harder for it. I cling to my covenants, for that is keeping the faith, even when I cannot rationally affirm articles or propositions expressing the faith of my fellow saints. I serve in good faith, with all my might, mind, and strength, even when I am without the faith, the belief, that gives assurance that these efforts are an acceptable offering to God. So come, all ye faithful, and come all ye faithless. Come all ye who struggle to hope, you who hope through great struggles. Come and adore Him. Bring your gifts of devotion, work, service, belief. What you have is what you can offer. There is no need to begrudge others their gifts that they may bring. Give Him instead your life’s work and your tear-wrought questions and receive the silence that is not an answer, but is peace. And as we worship, even some of us who are not faith full, will feel joyful and triumphant, as we raise our voices and come to adore the Christ child together.

If Jesus came for dinner…

What would you serve the Savior if he came to your house for dinner? Would you give him beans and rice? Or would you buy a good steak and make a nice meal?” I sat there, thinking about this. My conclusion was that, yes, I actually would serve the Savior beans and rice if he came to my house. Especially if He came unannounced.


This world is not conducive to contemplation, to meditation. We are encouraged to read the scriptures, fast, pray and meditate. But how do we meditate? There are some simple steps we can take on a regular basis to clear our minds. Some of these meditation techniques are borrowed from other traditions.

Thrift as a Principle of Stewardship

In my post last month, I wrote about fundamental scripture based doctrine that lead us to value the earth. Now I would like to demonstrate that Mormons care for the earth through their stewardship, primarily in the management of our own homes and families. The first principle of stewardship is thrift. If we as a people live by the principle of thrift, we will as a natural result consume less and be in a position to serve more. Using our resources, financial and otherwise, wisely is the first step in becoming the stewards that God expects us to be. If we all are economical about the use of our time, money, and resources, then we will be, in practice, a very green people.

Chicken Little Eating Crickets: When a mindset turns a windfall into a catastrophe

The panic prone little bird concluded the sky was falling, heralding the end of all creation when a nut fell from the tree above him, bonking him on the head. Something had indeed fallen, giving him a slight injury, but it was not the sky. It was actually lunch–vital sustenance handed to him, a grace independent of all merit on Chicken Little’s part.

Daily Bread

“Give us this day, our daily bread, And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” This is the prayer in my heart, the words my mind speaks each time I cut a slice of bread. I don’t bake bread every day, but all of the bread my family eats, I have baked. This is cause for gratitude. I am able to make bread, good bread, to feed my family. I am home enough to wait through the rises. I am strong enough to knead the dough. I have a reliable oven in which to bake, sunny warm spots free of drafts for rising. I have a grinder for my wheat and a carefully stored up abundant supply of ingredients. I have a dozen recipes I use regularly, switching breads as whim, weather or ingredients on hand dictate. Some of my slow rising breads I only make in summer when my house is warm. Made in winter, those end up as dense, compact loaves. I am thankful I’ve been baking long enough to build up this repertoire, this knowledge of accumulated experience. And the bread is good. My husband took a class in baking artisan bread during grad school. He loves good bread and enjoyed working the dough. But he’s never had the time to develop the feel for the dough that he needs to produce consistently excellent bread. It’s hard to do if you’re an occasional weekend chef.…

Charity Unbidden

Saturday night, several talks of the General Relief Society Broadcast addressed charity. I was left with the general impression that we should want to cultivate feelings of charity towards others, and that as we desire to have charity, we will gain it. I carry a sketch book and pencils with me. An adult only church meeting like the Relief Society broadcast  is the perfect place for me to sit quietly and sketch portraits of the people around me. I like to study faces and postures, to see the effects of life written on the body. I like to look beyond the damage and wrinkles to the child who was, unblemished and innocent, full of hope and potential. To see other people in this way is to mourn the troubles that have shaped them and recognize the strength of character that has allowed them to triumph. It is to see others charitably. I agree that we should desire to feel charitable, that we should cultivate that way of seeing others contrary to our selfish natures. But I also believe that charity may come on us unasked for, as a grace. It happens in a breathtaking moment, when you suddenly see a glimpse of another person as God sees them, flawed, yes, but also vulnerable and beautiful. I distinctly remember one kid in my Hebrew class at BYU. He was one of the most annoying people I have ever met in my…

Consumerism vs. Stewardship

The following is a modified excerpt from my presentation at Sunstone this summer. We live, not only in a capitalist, but a consumerist, society. Our society is all about spending, acquiring, cluttering, and replacing, not about maintaining, restoring, renewing, and protecting. It is cheaper to buy new than to repair old.  We live in a disposable country, where everything is trash, if not now, then soon. How did we get here? One of the best explanations I’ve found is in the work of the social theorist Max Weber (1). He examined the correlation between the Protestant religious belief and its accompanying work ethic and the accumulation of capital and the subsequent rise of capitalism. One aspect [of the concept of calling that arose during the Reformation] was unequivocally new: the fulfillment of duty in vocational callings became viewed as the highest expression that moral activity could assume. Precisely this new notion of the moral worth of devoting oneself to a calling was the unavoidable result of the idea of attaching religious significance to daily work (39-40). The motivation to accumulate wealth was the desire to have confirmation that one was saved. Unlike Catholics, Protestants had no priest to confess to and receive absolution of sins, so the status of soul was in doubt, which was a very uncomfortable position to be in spiritually (60,66). “Restless work in a vocational calling was recommended as the best possible means to acquire the…