Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Thank you, Shopko

My love of Shopko started when I very first arrived in Provo to go to BYU. My dad and I had been scurrying around, trying to buy me all the stuff I needed to live at college. But because there are a bajillion students in Provo and Orem with two universities, everywhere we went was totally crowded and totally gutted. Then we decided to try Shopko. Not only were there pretty much no people there, their employees were super friendly and they had all the odds and ends I needed! My dad and I marvelled at how serene it was to shop there after all of the mobs and bloodshed at Wal-Mart and Target.

Shopko is like that friend on the periphery who you sometimes forget about, but when you actually hang out with them you are so happy and you think, "Oh wait, you're awesome!" Or that cereal that you forget to buy for like 3 years and then that's all you eat for a month straight. I always end up going to Shopko when I have been fruitlessly searching for something forever, and I always find what I need there. And it is almost always on sale. Finds of note include: spicy Valentine's gifts for Nick, a fabulous black (not cream, not brown, not blue, like every other chair everywhere else!) rocking chair+ottoman, and little plastic diaper covers for the pool. The diaper covers I just found this morning after going to pretty much everywhere else that might have them in Utah Valley, including Babies R Us, which is the stupidest store ever and never has anything for babies EVER.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Thank you, Afrykayn, the Rosa Parks of Breastfeeding

I am so grateful to Afrykayn for standing up for breastfeeding. What should have happened is that the bus driver should have been asking somebody to help this mama carry her stroller and car seats onto the bus. Strollers are freaking heavy, and it irritates me that nobody offered to help her. But of course, that's small potatoes compared with the grief this poor woman was given for nursing her baby. She paid to be on that bus. She has a right to feed her baby. She is absolutely correct that it is discouraging to other mothers to see a woman be treated like that. Breastfeeding is the best for mamas and babies, and good job, Afrykayn, for not caving in.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Please, Caroline Winter Part 2

Now I will address this quote from Caroline Winter's article. There is another perspective on this particular quote from the article here.

"Scholar of Mormonism Melissa Proctor also notes, "A Mormon woman who has post-graduate education is less likely to attend church," perhaps because "an advanced degree does not contribute to an LDS woman's status within the church," whereas the church tends to fill its top positions with professionally successful men." (emphasis mine)

First of all, I looked up Melissa Proctor, and I could not determine whether she is LDS or not. I don't think she is. It doesn't really matter, I was just curious. But what does matter is that insofar as I could tell from her website, Proctor has not conducted extensive surveys or statistical analyses of Mormon women. Maybe she has and I missed it. But I would really like to know how she can assert that a Mormon woman with post-graduate education is less likely to attend church. If she has done surveys, I want to see the data. It could be a true statement, but I need more than a quote from a "scholar of Mormonism" to convince me. If there is a correlation, then again, how does Proctor know the motivations behind post-grad women's decline in church activity? As my favorite biology professor Dr. Byron Adams always said, "SHOW ME THE DATA!"

You might say, "Well, if Proctor has done research, Winter probably didn't have the inclination to give specific statistics since the article was primarily about men and the stuff about women was just thrown in at the end." I'm not trying to be oversensitive, but as a Mormon woman, broad assertions or implications that women are marginalized in the LDS church catch my attention.

Here is why Winter/Proctor's statement strikes me as incorrect. The idea of there being "status" and "top positions" in the church is problematic and not really accurate. Sometimes I think it is hard for people outside of the LDS church to understand the way the church is organized. The majority of leadership structures in the world follow a military model. Whether it be with jobs, volunteer work, or education, you give respect and obedience to leaders for a couple reasons. Because you are expected to since they are above you, and because they have the power to impact your rank or resources. In most organizations, people desire to increase in rank because it means an equivalent increase in power, prestige, and contents of the pocketbook. There are the ideas of demotion, promotion, and progress.

These ideas do not apply to the structure of the LDS church. The church does not follow a military model. It is not about status or power or accomplishments or money. People are given callings by their leaders. We believe that all church leaders receive revelation from God about who should have a given assignment. People serve where they are asked to. Members of the church generally respect their leaders. Not because they have power, or because you'll get in trouble if you don't. Not because you will get a lower grade, or you won't get a raise, or you won't get the position you want. In the church, people offer respect because leaders work really hard and because we believe that they are truly trying to listen to the Spirit and do what Heavenly Father would have them do as leaders. While it is a joy to serve, it is also a burden. People fulfill their church assignments without any monetary compensation. They do their callings on top of everything else they have going on in their life. People do not seek specific callings--you are not supposed to.

I venture to say that there is no such thing as status in the church. Except for the leaders of the church as a whole (who are called to their assignments for life), callings come and go. A man could be the leader of hundreds of church members one week, then get released and be called to be a leader over ten toddlers in his congregation. No one views this as a demotion or a lessening of the man's status, because there is no status.

Truly, people view the President of the Church, our Prophet, with the same respect as a Sunday greeter. One is not better than the other. The prophet has more responsibility, and receives revelation for more people. But the Sunday greeter receives revelation as well. They may feel a spiritual prompting to stop someone and ask them how their week was, or to say, "Hey, you look really nice today." They are responsible to know who people in their ward are. When a Sunday greeter is doing everything they can to fulfill their calling and make people feel noticed and welcomed as they enter church, they could spiritually impact someone. That impact could strike right at a crucial time. A Sunday greeter could help inspire someone to come unto Christ.

And when the prophet is doing everything he can to fulfill his calling, the impact is the same. They will help inspire people to come unto Christ. That is why all callings are equivalent. They all have the same exact objective, and fulfilling your calling has the same impact on everyone, in this life and in the life to come. This is also why it doesn't matter that men and women don't have all identical callings in the church. Men and women both have leadership positions. I am not going to give a run-down of all the callings in the church and which men get and which women get and which they both get--there are hundreds of possible callings. I will say that the vast majority of callings are things that both men and women are called to do. And most of the time, when there are gender-specific callings, there are parallel assignments for both men and women.

Having "top positions" to fill with "professionally successful men" would mean that some positions are more prestigious and desirable than others. I'm sorry, Caroline Winter, but that's not true. In conclusion, I will say that I have had bishops who are lawyers and bishops who are postal workers. Was one bishop more respected than the other? Did people wonder of the postal worker bishop, "Wow, how did he get that job?" No. No. No. It doesn't matter what you do in the outside world. Callings are given by inspiration, and God looketh on the heart. God knows who needs to serve in any given position--whether that means a man with a doctorate is called to be a bishop or he's called to be in charge of cleaning the church.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Please, Caroline Winter Part 1

I have been thinking a great deal about this article. Caroline Winter is generally very positive and spot on with her details and descriptions of LDS missionary service and its impact on members' drive to succeed. I truly enjoyed the majority of this article. But there were a couple of statements that I have been turning over and over in my mind, and I must address them.

"Mormons insist that self-improvement and self-reliance, not material wealth, are their religious aims, yet the Book of Mormon states, "And thus they did prosper and become far more wealthy than those who did not belong to their church" (Alma 1:31)."

"Scholar of Mormonism Melissa Proctor also notes, "A Mormon woman who has post-graduate education is less likely to attend church," perhaps because "an advanced degree does not contribute to an LDS woman's status within the church," whereas the church tends to fill its top positions with professionally successful men." (emphasis mine in both quotes)

I will start with the Book of Mormon quote. Cherry picking out of data or scripture is irritating in any event. On a rare occasion, cherry picking can bring out a truth that is often overlooked. Winter believes she has stumbled upon the true principle of the BoM about wealth/success.  She says, "Mormons say one thing, yet that's actually a facade because here's this quote from their own scripture that reveals what they truly believe!" I don't know if Caroline Winter has read the whole Book of Mormon. I don't know if she has read the whole chapter from which that quote was taken. If she has, it's kind of a shame that she misunderstood things so badly. Here is some more context from Alma 1:

27 And they did impart of their substance, every man according to that which he had, to the poor and the needy, and the sick, and the afflicted; and they did not wear costly apparel, yet they were neat and comely.
 28And thus they did establish the affairs of the church; and thus they began to have continual peace again, notwithstanding all their persecutions.
 29And now, because of the steadiness of the church they began to be exceedingly rich, having abundance of all things whatsoever they stood in need—an abundance of flocks and herds, and fatlings of every kind, and also abundance of grain, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious things, and abundance of silk and fine-twined linen, and all manner of good homely cloth.
 30And thus, in their prosperous circumstances, they did not send away any who were naked, or that were hungry, or that were athirst, or that were sick, or that had not been nourished; and they did not set their hearts upon riches; therefore they were liberal to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, whether out of the church or in the church, having no respect to persons as to those who stood in need.

And here is some context from Alma 4, just a short time later:

 6And it came to pass in the eighth year of the reign of the judges, that the people of the church began to wax proud, because of their exceeding riches, and their fine silks, and their fine-twined linen, and because of their many flocks and herds, and their gold and their silver, and all manner of precious things, which they had obtained by their industry; and in all these things were they lifted up in the pride of their eyes, for they began to wear very costly apparel.
 7Now this was the cause of much affliction to Alma, yea, and to many of the people whom Alma had consecrated to be teachers, and priests, and elders over the church; yea, many of them were sorely grieved for the wickedness which they saw had begun to be among their people.
 8For they saw and beheld with great sorrow that the people of the church began to be lifted up in the pride of their eyes, and to set their hearts upon riches and upon the vain things of the world, that they began to be scornful, one towards another, and they began to persecute those that did not believe according to their own will and pleasure.
12Yea, he saw great inequality among the people, some lifting themselves up with their pride, despising others, turning their backs upon the needy and the naked and those who were hungry, and those who were athirst, and those who were sick and afflicted.

These two sets of quotes represent just one instance of the pride cycle of the Book of Mormon. Over and over again, the people are righteous and they prosper, then become prideful, selfish, and uncharitable and their prosperity fades away. There are similar occurrences in the Old Testament with the Jews. The true lesson of the Book of Mormon about wealth is be careful and be charitable. The lesson is absolutely not "Hey, when you're righteous, you're gonna have a lot of MONEY!" Talking about the hard-won prosperity of the believers is not supposed to be a subliminal carrot dangling in front of church members' subconscious.

If a church member works hard and is financially successful, generally their abundance will be used generously and charitably. I cannot speak for every church member, and I am not asserting that all Mormons use any and all excess money to help the poor. Mormons take vacations and buy toys just like anyone else. But we are very strongly encouraged to give and to help those in need. We are encouraged by the Bible, by the Book of Mormon, by modern-day revelations/scriptures, by our current leaders, and by sacred covenants and promises we make as members of the church.

Perhaps I am so sensitive about this issue because this is something Nick and I talk about with regularity. To be completely blunt, Nick has a great drive to succeed. He is going to a top 10 law school, and will very likely make much more money than our family needs (though that's debatable, since we plan on having a big family and I plan on homeschooling our kids). Our desire as a family is to be financially secure so that we are always in a position to be charitable. We both grew up with so many resources. Our parents have money, and we have watched our parents be incredibly generous. The reason our parents are not self-absorbed with their success and the reason we feel a huge weight of financial responsibility for the needy is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I do not say these things to pat my family on the back--I say them because these are things that the church has taught us.

I'm sorry, Caroline Winter, but it bothers me for you to imply that our church/the Book of Mormon teaches financial pride and self-absorption when in fact, charity is one of our fore-most goals as individuals and as a church.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Thank you, Bandanas

I am a big fan of bandanas.

I'm sorry, let me re-phrase that.

I'm a big fandana of bandanas.

Aaah, that's better.

We had a little camping trip this weekend to Goblin Valley with Dave and Anna. Out of all the camping gear we brought--flashlights, hatchet, air pump to make a fast fire, cooler full of food--the bandanas were definitely the most critical. Here is why bandanas are so great!

You can wear them around your head or around your neck:

A bandana can transform you into a green crayon:

Or a babushka, or a biker dude:

You can get a bandana soaking wet and keep your baby cool and entertained on a desert afternoon:

It can turn Daddy and baby alike into really nice, happy pirates:


A bandana is an emergency bullfighting tool:

But most importantly, bandanas are the only effective defense against the horrifyingly ubiquitous biting gnats, which turned out to be the real goblins of Goblin Valley: