The work of women still must be done

There were two talks from this women's session that I really liked. President Hinckley's talk to the women of the church is full of his characteristic love and optimism. I loved President Hinckley so much for that quality—his ability to simultaneously encourage and inspire. Doesn't this sound so typical of him?
Add knowledge to knowledge. Refine your mind and skills in a chosen field of discipline. There are tremendous opportunities for you if you are prepared to take advantage of them. Nearly all of the honorable vocations of life are now open to women. Do not feel that because you are single God has forsaken you. The world needs you. The Church needs you. So very many people and causes need your strength and wisdom and talents. 
Put on thy beautiful garments, O daughters of Zion. Live up to the great and magnificent inheritance which the Lord God, your Father in Heaven, has provided for you. Rise above the dust of the world. Know that you are daughters of God, children with a divine birthright. Walk in the sun with your heads high, knowing that you are loved and honored, that you are a part of his kingdom, and that there is for you a great work to be done which cannot be left to others.
It's so stirring to think of it that way—that we are doing a work only we can do! In fact, one of the things this General Conference Odyssey has made me think about overall is the "common lot" of women through the generations. I know there are generational and cultural differences—obviously the assumptions we make and the things we take for granted vary over the years. But when I listen to these talks given to my mother's generation, what usually strikes me is how applicable and relevant they still are to ME today! Sister Barbara B. Smith touched on this theme in her talk:
While the demands made upon women in pioneer days may seem to be of more heroic proportions than those commonly faced by women today, in a sense we share the whole range of problems—disease, divorce, drugs, death, immorality, economic insecurity, abuse, loneliness, depression, single parenthood and on and on—problems with which women have always struggled and with which they must now contend. 
Then she goes on to say:
We are in a time when the swift changes of our social structure are thrusting enormous challenges upon us. We must remember that the work of women is important and still must be done. The spirit children of God must have the experience of mortality, and that means babies must be wanted, nurtured, loved, and cared for. The Lord has given women a primary responsibility in the establishment of good homes and well-cared-for families. No matter what the challenges are, we must find ways to accomplish this life-giving and eternal work. “Good family life is never an accident; it is always an achievement.” It was so for the women of the past, and it is so for us today. Our lives require discipline, coping without compromise, conversion of precepts into living principles that will make us saintly. 
Somehow the simplicity of this statement really struck me. Maybe it's because you hear so much about all the things women can do these days. And it's great! We have so many opportunities. We can contribute, as President Hinckley said, in so many different ways! But there is something sacred and ever-present about this "primary responsibility" of ours—the "wanting, nurturing, loving, and caring for" the spirit children of God. It seemed so clear, in the way she stated it, that THAT work is always needed and must always be done.

It seemed to capture, too, what I think is one of the hardest parts of our work—its seeming endlessness. It can seem so daunting. Are you tired? The work of women still calls to you.  Overwhelmed? No matter, the work is there. Heartsick? Fearful? Disillusioned? Ah, well. The work of women still must be done. But that makes it seem so godlike to me, too. We may falter and slow for a time, but ultimately, God's children need us—so we carry on.

No matter what else we do as women—we must keep doing our "life-giving and eternal work."

When your own heart aches

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Sunday Afternoon Session of the October 1983 Conference.
I've been thinking for a while now about the idea that power comes from service. I heard a really good talk in church that got me thinking along those lines—a lady in my ward talked about how the most important part of the Law of the Fast is the part telling us to serve others: "to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and [to] break every yoke… to deal thy bread to the hungry, and…bring the poor that are cast out to thy house…[and] draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul".

She talked about how it is the very process of pushing aside our own fears, worries, doubts, pains—all those very things we are so desperately fasting for relief from—and putting other people foremost in our minds instead—that brings the power we need to endure our own trials.

I have even thought there might be some kind of direct correlation—some specific law of heaven that pairs relief from a trial with the corresponding easement of that trial for another person—when we give a true sacrifice in love. I don't mean that we have to necessarily stick to only helping those who have trials like our own, of course! We learn a lot from seeing how different the needs around us are. But I've just sensed some sort of…I don't know. Some sort of answer or release at times, when I am struggling with a specific trial—and I encounter another person with that same category of trial—in praying for that person and myself both, knowing we share a struggle.

Anyway, Elder Richard G. Scott gave such an amazing talk on this topic in the October 1983 Conference. There are so many beautiful quotes from it!
I speak of service—self-sacrificing service to others in need. I know it is hard to help another when you feel you have been wronged. I know it is difficult to take the first step when your own heart aches for companionship or yearns for understanding. Yet such acts of service open to us the mercy and love of Jesus Christ, the Master. 
Free agency is a divine gift, and God will not override it. Because of free agency, we must take the first step. Our initial acts of kindness or service to others provide us with channels of inspiration and power. In contrast, darkness and despair close in when the light of love and service dims or goes out within us.… 
If you would be loved, love another. If you would be understood, show understanding to another. If you would find peace, harmony, and happiness, lift another.…
Because I keep running into this principle in my gospel study, I know it's something important for me right now, and I'm trying to figure out how to implement it more fully. One funny example was when a friend of mine was overwhelmed with a bunch of things, and had been praying that perhaps her ministering sister would be inspired to offer her some help. And finally one morning, that ministering sister called my friend, and then…ASKED my friend to help HER with something!

Later we were laughing about it, and we said jokingly that perhaps that blessing of being able to give service was the best thing of all, even though it felt like Heavenly Father must have misheard her prayers—"Wait, it was ME that needed help, remember?" And even though we were joking about it, I keep thinking about it and I've been trying to see if I could actually use that principle better. Could I train myself to immediately figure out someone to help, when I start to feel overwhelmed or in pain? The idea of going outside my home to "serve someone" often makes life seem MORE overwhelming, but if it were for a friend I already knew and cared about…or perhaps if I took a task I had to do for someone anyway? Something like cleaning up a mess or cooking a meal for my family—if I were to deliberately try to do that task AS an offering, AS a willing and happy service for God—would that help me feel better?
I am convinced that when we give unconditional love; when our interest is first in serving, building, edifying, strengthening without thought of self; when we do not expect an automatic return for each act of kindness, generosity, or sincere effort to help; when we are not concerned about what we will receive or what others will say or whether our own burdens will be diminished, but selflessly seek to build another, the miracle of the power of the gospel is released in our lives. When we permit the Lord to work through us to bless others, that sacred experience releases power in our own lives, and miracles occur. …
Elder Scott does say that we should not be "concerned about what we will receive…or whether our own burdens will be diminished"—so…hmm. Maybe it's not ideal to think, "I want my burdens to be lifted! So, who can I serve?" But, I feel like it might be okay to think that…as long as you are ALSO trying to genuinely care about those you are serving. And as long as you aren't saying in an ultimatum sort of way, "Heavenly Father, I will ONLY serve if my burdens get lifted RIGHT NOW!"

But this is so typically Elder-Scott-ish. I love him:
Begin now with your best effort. Reach out to another. You will feel the power of the Lord flow through you.
I believe him. And while I can't say I have tons of personal experience living this principle, I really want to try to start applying it by trying to deliberately serve "when my own heart aches"! Elder Scott's reassurance that even our "initial acts of kindness or service to others provide us with channels of inspiration and power" reminds me of Elder Renlund's "light the match" metaphor. It is exciting to think that the small act of "reaching out to another" could immediately open up those "channels of inspiration and power"!

Other posts in this series:

Why do we suffer?—by Jan Tolman

Out of effort comes strength

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Sunday Morning Session of the October 1983 Conference.
Here is a simple little statement that caught my attention from President Hinckley's talk:
I see the fruits of your faith, and I am grateful. I thank you for the energy you put into this work. I know that at times it feels burdensome. Some of it may appear unnecessary. But out of effort and labor comes strength, and out of service comes gladness.
It just made me think about how grateful I am for service in the church (and in the family, and any service, really). It's so easy to feel that it's weighing you down, and you wish you could just have a rest! Sometimes I think longingly of the time I will get released from my current calling (and it's not even a very hard one!). But I know that at that point I will just get a different calling—and (deep down)—I'm so glad, because I know how good it is for me!

I finished a project recently—something that took a lot of time and mental effort. It was satisfying to work on it, but hard, and I was working and working with the goal of getting it DONE! I was so excited for the end. But shortly after I finished…I felt kind of sad and empty. I realized how much I had enjoyed the effort. Although I had often thought wistfully of being done so I could "have more time"…I now realized that the things I often spend (/waste) little bits of free time on aren't very fulfilling! Certainly not in the same, big, satisfying way as this project was.

This quote reminded me that the same thing is true in so many areas of my life! I'm not saying all callings/projects/assignments are equally satisfying, and of course, like any other exhausted parent, I  fantasize about how much sleeping I'd do if I could do whatever I wanted! But I'm just glad that having a family, and being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, gives me a reason to serve even when I'm tired and wouldn't necessarily choose to do it on my own. I'm glad Heavenly Father knows, and teaches us, the not-very-obvious truth that "out of effort and labor comes strength, and out of service comes gladness."

All that the Savior did

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Priesthood Session of the October 1983 Conference.
Elder Jack H. Goaslind has an interesting take on the meaning of missionary work:
Our call to cry repentance to all people is a direct consequence of the infinite and eternal Atonement. It is by teaching the gospel and administering the ordinances that the Atonement becomes effective in a person’s life.
I thought that was such an interesting insight! I guess it's really the same principle that makes us learn the most about parenthood not by HAVING parents, but by BEING parents. So of course we would learn more about salvation by participating in it than by just accepting it. I like that idea.

Elder Goaslind quotes Jesus declaring what His mission is (“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord”) and then makes this remarkable claim:
The conditions of our discipleship impose on us the identical mission, for [Jesus] said, “The works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do.” We are empowered, as necessary, to do all that the Savior did—except for the Atonement itself—in our labors to save our fellowmen. In fact, we are told that we must be “the saviors of men”…
The Lord has not left the accomplishment of this sacred labor to chance. Through sacred covenants he imposes this responsibility on all members of his kingdom, and simultaneously empowers us to fulfill these covenants. Even young children and youth have this sacred duty and also the power to do it.
I akready knew we are to be "saviors of men" in small ways, of course, as we try to follow the Savior—but for some reason I had never thought that might mean that we could do all that He did in pursuit of that goal. Not that we are trying to usurp His role or put ourselves on His level, but just that—Jesus wants so much for us to feed his sheep that he will empower us fully—with His own power—when we make the attempt! I think that is such a cool thought. And I love the idea that this power is given through the making of our own covenants, bringing the whole thing kind of full circle: Jesus saves us--> by letting us make covenants--> in which we promise that we will help save others--> by inviting them to make covenants with Jesus Christ themselves. There is power infused into that cycle at every turn! When I look at it like that, I wonder how I can ever doubt! It's all so beautifully simple, such a generous gift Christ gives us as soon as we accept Him—the chance to work with Him and grow to be like Him through doing His work!

Cakelets, Greenery, Pockets

It's getting to be my favorite time of year! Bunny season. :) I like a late-April Easter—the Easter decorations got to be out from the end of March and all through April! We haven't had unbroken clear skies, but I don't mind a little rain because it makes everything so green.
This picture is not of rain, though. Just Teddy at the Aquarium:
People being BYU-y.
Cakes made in my new bunny "cakelet" pan. (That's what it was called when I bought it. And I think "cakelet" is a very cute word, much cuter than "cupcake.")
We're studying plants right now for school, and for one project we made terrariums. I love them! I don't usually keep many plants around the house (just one more thing to worry about!), but we've had a lot of them around during this unit for various activities and experiments, and I must admit it is quite nice. We've had colored flowers, and little tiny seed starts, and microgreens, and air plants. It has made it feel extra Spring-y inside!

Goldie wants to do math problems all the time these days—she seems to have a knack for seeing how numbers go together, to the point that all her older siblings want to show her off as some kind of savant. They are always telling me the hard problems they have devised for her—and how she answered every one correctly.
Girls on a sunny Sunday. That's my old dress, on Marigold.
A snowy day. But the snow is soon gone, this time of year!
Seb has been drumming on everything with my old drumsticks and mallets lately (did you know I played the drums in high school and college? I did.) and for awhile it seemed like every night when I was cooking dinner I would end up yelling "Who took my POT LID?!"—before I realized that Seb had appropriated every container in the house to be part of his drum set. One day he came upstairs to show me the foot pedal he had made for his bass drum. I am used to Seb making all kinds of things, but I was completely amazed that he'd figured out how to construct this perfectly-working mechanism!
Daisy made something great too—this cutest tiny Kleenex box for her dolls!
Sometimes my kids suddenly get seized with the desire to wear animal costumes for a few days. Here we have a round elephant.
Some bears.
And a large gorilla. Ziggy was leery of it.
But speaking of Ziggy. He is particularly funny these days. He talks a lot (in strange, funny half-sentences) and wants to wear everyone else's shoes around. He also wants to go outside all the time, and if he can't (or whenever you bring him in), he runs angrily screaming through the house and throws himself down dramatically in the closet or on the stairs. He also likes to sit by the oven on a little stool, saying "Mum! Mum!" (yum) encouragingly as the food cooks.
His hair is getting really long, too. One of the kids tried to make it stay up in the "poik" he used to always have, and it poked up like a unicorn horn!
Zig loves, loves, loves his siblings!! He is always begging to be picked up—and they usually oblige.
He also thinks the front of his shirt is a pocket, so he pretty much always looks lumpy and bumpy like this when he walks around the house. Heaven forbid he wears a regular shirt and pants, because the toys go right through and he's so annoyed by it! And sometimes the sheer number of things he stores in his "pocket" are out of control. I counted something like thirty little animals that fell out of the legs of his suit one day when I was changing his diaper. Monkey!
It's a good place to store his Taggie, too—
which he calls "Gaggie" and carries around with him whenever possible. If I try to leave it in his crib, he reaches an impossibly long arm through the slats and gets it anyway!
He still has a propensity to put himself into boxes. He likes to carry a box around the house, set it down, and get in it.
Goodness, we love him!

No alternatives

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Saturday Afternoon Session of the October 1983 Conference.
My favorite quote from this conference session was by Elder Marion D. Hanks:
We understood before we left that premortal state that freedom is precarious, difficult. We knew that to love would make us vulnerable to heartbreak and pain and disappointment. But we had learned that the alternatives to love and freedom of choice cannot provide the climate for growth and creative capacity that can eventually lead us to a stewardship like our Father’s.

He knows how to help us rise

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Saturday Morning Session of the October 1983 Conference.
Jesus Blessing Jairus’s Daughter (Christ Raising the Daughter of Jairus), by Greg K. Olsen
President Ezra Taft Benson's talk is one of those that surprises you—the kind where you read it the first time and think it's kind of obvious or expected, but then when you read it again you find all kinds of amazing things!

I especially liked pondering these things in this week leading up to Easter:
Faith in [Jesus Christ] is more than mere acknowledgment that He lives. It is more than professing belief. 
Faith in Jesus Christ consists of complete reliance on Him. As God, He has infinite power, intelligence, and love. There is no human problem beyond His capacity to solve. Because He descended below all things, He knows how to help us rise above our daily difficulties
Faith in Him means believing that even though we do not understand all things, He does. We, therefore, must look to Him “in every thought; doubt not, fear not.” 
Faith in Him means trusting that He has all power over all men and all nations. There is no evil which He cannot arrest. All things are in His hands. This earth is His rightful dominion. Yet He permits evil so that we can make choices between good and evil.
His gospel is the perfect prescription for all human problems and social ills. 
But His gospel is only effective as it is applied in our lives. Therefore, we must “feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.” 
Unless we do His teachings, we do not demonstrate faith in Him.… 
What then is the answer to the question “What is to be done?” concerning the problems and dilemmas that individuals, communities, and nations face today? Here is His simple prescription: 
“Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend. 
“… Believe that ye must repent of your sins and forsake them, and humble yourselves before God; and ask in sincerity of heart that he would forgive you; and now, if you believe all these things see that ye do them.” (Mosiah 4:9–10; italics added.)
I especially liked that part about helping us "rise above our daily difficulties." Something I think about fairly often is how the ultimate, incomprehensible pain of Christ's atonement is really only meaningful to us in tiny, personal glimpses. It's easy to see that some of the best and most compassionate work Jesus did was to accept the pain of—I don't know, truly agonizing things, like the pain of starving in a concentration camp, or the pain of losing a child unexpectedly, or the pain of abuse. But for me, it seems just as amazing to think about how he knows exactly the pain of my hurt knee, or my headache, or my embarrassment when I do something stupid. 

It seems fitting for a God to absorb the grand and noble sufferings, but to experience my own almost embarrassingly trivial pains—my "daily difficulties"—truly seems like "descending below all things," and knowing He did THAT that increases my love and gratitude for the Savior all the more.

Things I liked from General Conference

Sometimes I think the day after General Conference is the saddest day—it is hard to go back to regular life! But I loved this Conference and learned a lot. And discovered anew that I have plenty of things to work on! :)

You'll be relieved to know (I'm sure it's been on your mind) that I got a new notebook since last October, so I didn't have to use the back cover to take notes on the Seventies' talks.

Here are some phrases and ideas that stood out to me:

President Nelson:
Position yourself to have experiences with God!
President Eyring:
• Praying together as a family is a crucial part in making the home sacred.
• The temple is the best place to gain a love for heavenly places.
Talks I loved but didn't write concise quotes from:
• Elder Holland's
• Elder Bednar's
• Elder Brook P. Hales'
Elder Renlund:
• When you receive any blessing, you can conclude you have obeyed the associated law.
• Our actions approach zero—but they are NOT zero!
• "I would've filled up, went on, and prayed again."
Sister Craven:
There is no right way to do the wrong thing!
[Me: This includes arguing with a teenager. Once I enter the argument, no matter how correct I am (and I am always correct, naturally­čÖä)—I become wrong!]
Elder David P. Homer:
• At critical moments, we will hear multiple voices competing for our attention. We must listen to the right one!
• "A hyper-intellectual stupor of thought" [such a great and descriptive phrase!]
Elder Juan Pablo Villar (who has the happiest face I have ever seen):
When we pray for a spiritual gift, God will give us opportunities to develop that gift—not simply the gift itself.
Elder Kyle S. McKay:
The "immediate goodness of God" comes to all who call upon him with real intent and full purpose of heart. It brings not immediate deliverance, but immediate peace and hope.
[I can vouch for that—I have experienced it multiple times myself.]

Other posts in this series:

General Conference: My Own Possibilities—by Jan Tolman
General Conference Notes—by G

Beds, boxes, butterflies

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