Friday, December 28, 2012

A Masterful Talk

The following is a talk that was given by Sister Sheri Dew when she served in the presidency of the General Relief Society.  This talk is one of those masterful sermons that has stuck with me for many years.  Recently there has been much said about the Church placing less value on women than on men. 

My friends, I consider myself to be something of a feminist, but mostly I am a feminist insofar as I believe that people should be treated respectfully, compassionately, and kindly, no matter who they are.  In other words, I am smart and capable. My thoughts, words, and opinions are as important as anyone else's, and anyone else's are as important as mine.  If we believe we are all children of God, we should treat one another as such.  This is not to say that everyone has the SAME roles, but that we should all be given opportunities to learn, grow, contribute, and develop.

Yes, I believe I could go farther in my career than I am currently being given opportunity.  But I would trade the checks and the clothes and the kudos to go home and be the wife and the mother (and the grandmother someday) all day every day.  I can give of my talents and abilities at work, but I can feel fulfilled and find meaningful activities and uses of my talents in other arenas just as much or more as I can in any office building. 

I LOVE being a mother.  I loved it when our children were tiny and I love it even more as they grow.  I CHOSE to be a stay-at-home mother for all the years of their young childhoods, and I used all of my talents and abilities in meaningful ways to do that.  It was not done solely out of expectation, necessity, or social pressure.  I CHOSE to be that person, and I like that person (me!).

Because of that, I believe this talk is truth, and I believe it addresses everything that is being questioned.  I believe that this doctrine gives hope, light, joy, and meaning. I hope you enjoy it.


Are We Not All Mothers?

Sheri L. Dew
Second Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency

Motherhood is more than bearing children. … It is the essence of who we are as women.

This summer four teenage nieces and I shared a tense Sunday evening when we set out walking from a downtown hotel in a city we were visiting to a nearby chapel where I was to speak. I had made that walk many times, but that evening we suddenly found ourselves engulfed by an enormous mob of drunken parade-goers. It was no place for four teenage girls, or their aunt, I might add. But with the streets closed to traffic, we had no choice but to keep walking. Over the din, I shouted to the girls, “Stay right with me.” As we maneuvered through the crush of humanity, the only thing on my mind was my nieces’ safety.

Thankfully, we finally made it to the chapel. But for one unnerving hour, I better understood how mothers who forgo their own safety to protect a child must feel. My siblings had entrusted me with their daughters, whom I love, and I would have done anything to lead them to safety. Likewise, our Father has entrusted us as women with His children, and He has asked us to love them and help lead them safely past the dangers of mortality back home.

Loving and leading—these words summarize not only the all-consuming work of the Father and the Son, but the essence of our labor, for our work is to help the Lord with His work. How, then, may we as Latter-day women of God best help the Lord with His work?

Prophets have repeatedly answered this question, as did the First Presidency six decades ago when they called motherhood “the highest, holiest service … assumed by mankind.” 1

Have you ever wondered why prophets have taught the doctrine of motherhood—and it is doctrine—again and again? I have. I have thought long and hard about the work of women of God. And I have wrestled with what the doctrine of motherhood means for all of us. This issue has driven me to my knees, to the scriptures, and to the temple—all of which teach an ennobling doctrine regarding our most crucial role as women. It is a doctrine about which we must be clear if we hope to stand “steadfast and immovable” 2 regarding the issues that swirl around our gender. For Satan has declared war on motherhood. He knows that those who rock the cradle can rock his earthly empire. And he knows that without righteous mothers loving and leading the next generation, the kingdom of God will fail.

When we understand the magnitude of motherhood, it becomes clear why prophets have been so protective of woman’s most sacred role. While we tend to equate motherhood solely with maternity, in the Lord’s language, the word mother has layers of meaning. Of all the words they could have chosen to define her role and her essence, both God the Father and Adam called Eve “the mother of all living” 3 —and they did so before she ever bore a child. Like Eve, our motherhood began before we were born. Just as worthy men were foreordained to hold the priesthood in mortality, 4 righteous women were endowed premortally with the privilege of motherhood. 5 Motherhood is more than bearing children, though it is certainly that. It is the essence of who we are as women. It defines our very identity, our divine stature and nature, and the unique traits our Father gave us.

President Gordon B. Hinckley stated that “God planted within women something divine.” 6 That something is the gift and the gifts of motherhood. Elder Matthew Cowley taught that “men have to have something given to them [in mortality] to make them saviors of men, but not mothers, not women. [They] are born with an inherent right, an inherent authority, to be the saviors of human souls … and the regenerating force in the lives of God’s children.” 7

Motherhood is not what was left over after our Father blessed His sons with priesthood ordination. It was the most ennobling endowment He could give His daughters, a sacred trust that gave women an unparalleled role in helping His children keep their second estate. As President J. Reuben Clark Jr. declared, motherhood is “as divinely called, as eternally important in its place as the Priesthood itself.” 8

Nevertheless, the subject of motherhood is a very tender one, for it evokes some of our greatest joys and heartaches. This has been so from the beginning. Eve was “glad” after the Fall, realizing she otherwise “never should have had seed.” 9 And yet, imagine her anguish over Cain and Abel. Some mothers experience pain because of the children they have borne; others feel pain because they do not bear children here. About this Elder John A. Widtsoe was explicit: “Women who through no fault of their own cannot exercise the gift of motherhood directly, may do so vicariously.” 10

For reasons known to the Lord, some women are required to wait to have children. This delay is not easy for any righteous woman. But the Lord’s timetable for each of us does not negate our nature. Some of us, then, must simply find other ways to mother. And all around us are those who need to be loved and led.

Eve set the pattern. In addition to bearing children, she mothered all of mankind when she made the most courageous decision any woman has ever made and with Adam opened the way for us to progress. She set an example of womanhood for men to respect and women to follow, modeling the characteristics with which we as women have been endowed: heroic faith, a keen sensitivity to the Spirit, an abhorrence of evil, and complete selflessness. Like the Savior, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,” 11 Eve, for the joy of helping initiate the human family, endured the Fall. She loved us enough to help lead us.

As daughters of our Heavenly Father, and as daughters of Eve, we are all mothers and we have always been mothers. And we each have the responsibility to love and help lead the rising generation. How will our young women learn to live as women of God unless they see what women of God look like, meaning what we wear, watch, and read; how we fill our time and our minds; how we face temptation and uncertainty; where we find true joy; and why modesty and femininity are hallmarks of righteous women? How will our young men learn to value women of God if we don’t show them the virtue of our virtues?

Every one of us has an overarching obligation to model righteous womanhood because our youth may not see it anywhere else. Every sister in Relief Society, which is the most significant community of women on this side of the veil, is responsible to help our young women make a joyful transition into Relief Society. This means our friendship with them must begin long before they turn 18. Every one of us can mother someone—beginning, of course, with the children in our own families but extending far beyond. Every one of us can show by word and by deed that the work of women in the Lord’s kingdom is magnificent and holy. I repeat: We are all mothers in Israel, and our calling is to love and help lead the rising generation through the dangerous streets of mortality.

Few of us will reach our potential without the nurturing of both the mother who bore us and the mothers who bear with us. I was thrilled recently to see one of my youth leaders for the first time in years. As a teenager who had absolutely no self-confidence, I always sidled up to this woman because she would put her arm around me and say, “You are just the best girl!” She loved me, so I let her lead me. How many young men and women are desperate for your love and leadership? Do we fully realize that our influence as mothers in Israel is irreplaceable and eternal?

When I was growing up, it was not uncommon for Mother to wake me in the middle of the night and say, “Sheri, take your pillow and go downstairs.” I knew what that meant. It meant a tornado was coming, and I was instantly afraid. But then Mother would say, “Sheri, everything will be OK.” Her words always calmed me. Today, decades later, when life seems overwhelming or frightening, I call Mother and wait for her to say, “Everything will be OK.”

Recent horrifying events in the United States have underscored the fact that we live in a world of uncertainty. Never has there been a greater need for righteous mothers—mothers who bless their children with a sense of safety, security, and confidence about the future, mothers who teach their children where to find peace and truth and that the power of Jesus Christ is always stronger than the power of the adversary. Every time we build the faith or reinforce the nobility of a young woman or man, every time we love or lead anyone even one small step along the path, we are true to our endowment and calling as mothers and in the process we build the kingdom of God. No woman who understands the gospel would ever think that any other work is more important or would ever say, “I am just a mother,” for mothers heal the souls of men.

Look around. Who needs you and your influence? If we really want to make a difference, it will happen as we mother those we have borne and those we are willing to bear with. If we will stay right with our youth—meaning, if we will love them—in most cases they will stay right with us—meaning, they will let us lead them.

As mothers in Israel, we are the Lord’s secret weapon. Our influence comes from a divine endowment that has been in place from the beginning. In the premortal world, when our Father described our role, I wonder if we didn’t stand in wide-eyed wonder that He would bless us with a sacred trust so central to His plan and that He would endow us with gifts so vital to the loving and leading of His children. I wonder if we shouted for joy 12 at least in part because of the ennobling stature He gave us in His kingdom. The world won’t tell you that, but the Spirit will.

We just can’t let the Lord down. And if the day comes when we are the only women on earth who find nobility and divinity in motherhood, so be it. For mother is the word that will define a righteous woman made perfect in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom, a woman who has qualified for eternal increase in posterity, wisdom, joy, and influence.

I know, I absolutely know, that these doctrines about our divine role are true, and that when understood they bring peace and purpose to all women. My dear sisters, whom I love more than I know how to express, will you rise to the challenge of being mothers in these perilous times, though doing so may test the last ounce of your endurance and courage and faith? Will you stand steadfast and immovable as a mother in Israel and a woman of God? Our Father and His Only Begotten Son have given us a sacred stewardship and a holy crown in their kingdom. May we rejoice in it. And may we be worthy of Their trust. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

1. “The Message of the First Presidency to the Church,” Improvement Era, Nov. 1942, 761.
2. Mosiah 5:15.
3. Moses 4:26.
4. See Alma 13:2–4, 7–8.
5. See Spencer W. Kimball, “The Role of Righteous Women,” Ensign, Nov. 1979, 102.
6. Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley (1997), 387.
7. Matthew Cowley Speaks (1954), 109.
8. “Our Wives and Our Mothers in the Eternal Plan,” Relief Society Magazine, Dec. 1946, 801.
9. Moses 5:11.
10. Priesthood and Church Government, comp. John A. Widtsoe (1939), 85.
11. Heb. 12:2.
12. See Job 38:7.
© 2012 Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

I'm Shallow

By Evalyn M. Sandberg

Aesthetic sensibility has been decreeing that
I should not sing hymns lustily, a trifle sharp or flat.

Musicians wince as I intone pure praise and real thanksgiving.
This second form of worship gives me such a zest for living!

I’m sure God can distinguish a false note from the start;
but does he analyze the voice — or listen to the heart?

My friends, I am sort of a music snob.  I rarely listen to people's musical links on Facebook, because so many of them are really quite terrible--a trifle sharp or flat.  Still, I hope EVERYONE feels that they can sing with gusto, because I know that the second form of worship brings me joy, and I hope it does the same for you.  Music is a blessing.


I really hate the song "Silent Night."  I know, I know.  It makes me un-Christian or something.  I think the words are lovely, but the tune just scrapes on me. I blame this on listening to decades of horrible "Silent Night" renditions.  There's just too much pop-izing of what should be a hymn and note sliding.  Somewhere I've reached a point where it's not even worth it to try to listen to it.

The one exception is listening to my friend, our ward organist, play the organ chimes on this song.  Lovely!

But the tone-deaf extended Hill family holding hands around the Christmast tree "singing" all three verses?  It's enough to swear me off the song for the rest of my life.  Or longer.

I'm sorry, World.

Friday, December 21, 2012


Spencer turned off his alarm this morning.  Then Ash couldn't find her keys, so she came in.  Spencer got up.  My alarm went off.  I said, "Bah, humbug!" and I turned it off.  I stayed in bed.  I was kinda sleeping, but mostly choosing NOT to get up.

I finally got up, fed the dog, and went into the bathroom to start the day.  It was VERY late (for a work day).  I moved QUICKLY.

Just now I went into the restroom, where I discovered that I hurried TOO quickly where my hair is concerned.  Can you say, "Bad hair day"?

I think this is bad enough to even justify leaving work early...

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Sharing a Memory: Ted

When I was pregnant with Briana, my mom threw me a baby shower and invited the ladies from my home ward.  One of them--and I don't remember who it was--gave me a beautiful white plush teddy bear.  It had a music box in it which wound up on the back of the bear.  I put that bear in the crib, where it stayed during Breezy's infancy.

Briana became VERY attached to that bear, whose name became "Ted."  We took Ted everywhere.

When Bri was about 14 or 15 months old, we took a day trip to my uncle and aunt's home in Wyoming.  Our little one was very well-behaved that day, but the junk food she'd eaten did not sit well with her.  On the ride home, she vomited.  She was so sad, and her first words were, "Oh, no!  Ted!"  She cried and cried--she was so heartbroken because she's spoiled Ted.  We comforted her, cleaned everything up, and threw Ted in the washer as soon as we got home.  She was just tiny, but she kept asking if Ted was OK.  His music box never worked again, but Ted survived the washing--the first of many.

When Taylor was born, Briana was two.  She was old enough to carry Ted around herself, and he STILL went everywhere.  Several times, at church, I had to remind our two-year-old to put DOWN her dress.  But she had Ted's face up to her chest--she was nursing him.

Briana LOVED that bear!  It didn't take long before he wasn't white any more. The soft fabric of his nose disappeared.  He certainly wasn't soft.  He was hardly even fluffy! 

When Briana was 3, we went one day to Spencer's sister's home.  There was a small neighborhood park down the street, so Spencer's older niece took Bri and Whit to the park to play.  I told Breeze to leave Ted with me, but she was adamant that he wanted to play with them.  She came home without Ted.  I went with her to the park to retrieve her beloved bear.  Just a few days later, the same thing happened.  Our older niece found Ted buried in the sand (apparently he really did want to play), so she picked him up and brought him to me.  I decided that Bri was old enough to take responsibility for Ted, which, interpreted, meant that she had lost him.  So I hid him in the trunk so I could put him in the cedar chest before he really was lost.

We got about halfway home when Bri screeched from the back seat, "Ted!  I left him in the park!"  We responded that we did not have time to turn around.  We reminded her that he was her responsibility and she had not taken care of him, and we said we'd go back the next day to look for him.  She called Aunt Jenny as soon as we got home, but Aunt Jenny couldn't find him.  We went back to Jenny's the next day, but we couldn't find Ted.  Briana was absolutely heart-broken. 

Ted was safely in my cedar chest.

About a year ago (maybe a bit more), our girls wanted to go through the treasures in my cedar chest.  Ted was near the bottom.  Our grown-up daughter, who lived in Far-Away Logan, saw that bear and nearly went into tears.  She was so relieved to see that he was OK and that he was still around for her.  Then she got really mad at me and took that bear away from me.  :)

He is now safely in HER cedar chest, waiting for that girl to take him out and love him again whenever she's ready.  I'm glad we have Ted.

Monday, December 17, 2012

So Many Things

On a happy note, my poinsettia is thriving.  If I had any real wood at my desk, I would knock on it.

This morning while getting ready for work, I thought, "I wish I could have a whole lunch with my friend--just the two of us."  I emailed her when I arrived, and we actually took that lovely lunch together.  Bliss!

I got a new book for Christmas.  It is a beautiful, leather-bound copy of a biography about Lorenzo Snow.  Not only will it be a wonderful book to read, but it smells heavenly!  I LOVE that new-book smell (especially a leather-bound new book)!

My dad's email this morning announced that I am getting a new niece or nephew next year.  Woot!  Congratulations, Gavin and Kimberly!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Today I'm May

Did you ever read or watch "The Secret Life of Bees?"  One of the characters was a sweet, innocent child of a woman.  She had created a prayer wall of her own.  Whenever she heard somethng that broke her heart, she would write it down and put it in the wall.  It was her only way to cope and not be buried by the sadness of the evil in the world.

Today I need a wailing wall.  26 dead in an elementary school.  My stomach is sick.  My heart is sick.  My head is sick.  I'd like to just curl into a ball somewhere and cry for days.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

We Don't Use that Word at Our House

As our children have gotten older, the word has become more common; and I admit sometimes I even use it.  Because let's face it:  sometimes things just SUCK.

Ugh.  What an ugly word that is.

"Shut up" was not allowed in our house, either.  It's such a rude phrase!  Of course, profanity still isn't found (much) at our house.  I once let Landon wash my mouth out with soap when he reminded me that I had done the same to him for using a particular word.  What can I say?  When he's right, he's right.

I've already told you, haven't I?, that my boss says, "Bless you" all the time.  It is one of those phrases that just touches me.  Also, last week he told me I was a champion.  Wow.  I don't think I've ever been a champion before.  I liked it.  :)

I believe there is power to be found in words, and I believe that the way we lead (or herd or follow or wander) can be effected intensely by words.  Probably my least favorite thing I hear at work is, "I hope I still have a job after this."  It makes me think Really?  Are you really so worried that your superior would fire you over this?  Perhaps they really are, but I think it introduces a fear factor that is not only unnecessary but completely demoralizing.  Also, I don't believe that leading by FEAR is leading at all.  Anyone can move a herd with a cattle prod.  It takes something much more to be an effective and true LEADER.

It makes me wonder what thoughtless thing I might be saying that is dragging someone down.  I'm trying to be conscientious about my words.

A Wonderful Story

Dear friends (if anyone is there),

I am sharing this story to journal it, not to brag.  It just made me so happy, I had to make sure to write it down.

When we bought our house, I did not love it.  It is a good house--very well-built and well-cared for.  But it is not laid out the way I would choose, and it was never beautiful to me.  The cabinets, for example, are a high-quality, solid wood.  But I think they are ugly.  I wish I had a separate living room that no one needs to go into.  The house had the big living/dining room, then downstairs there were two LARGE family rooms.  But with all the space, it only has 4 bedrooms.  There's a LOT of hall space but not a lot of closet space. 

But the house was really perfect for preschool, which is what we were looking for most of all.  There is a basement entrance; I was able to use one of the family rooms as a play room.  And in the end, we really only needed 4 bedrooms.

We've tried to make our house a home.  It is not a beautiful home.  I don't like the baseboards, window and door trims, cabinets, or countertops.  I don't like the windows.  I HATE the carpet.  Also, I am not a decorator, meaning I really don't have a knack for seeing how it should be put together.

And you know how we can be sometimes--not quite satisfied with what we have.  Oh, believe me, if I were a rich woman, this would be a lovely, lovely home with lovely, lovely furniture.  The exterior would have a different look.  The yard would be manicured.  The windows, trim, doors, baseboards, flooring, cabinets--all of these things would be replaced.  And I have it in my mind just exactly how it would look (hello, Pinterest!).

But we have pictures of our family, gifts people have given us, pictures of the temple and the Savior. We have a lovely piano (thanks, Honey!) and sufficient furniture. We are very blessed. Mostly we have a lot of love and laughter in our house, and EVERYONE is welcome there.

So this weekend, when Ashie told me this story, it touched my heart and made me very grateful. 

When Ash was in elementary school, she was friends with a set of twins who live in our neighborhood, just a couple of blocks away, in a neighboring ward.  They had come over to our house, and they had been there for a while when one of the girls said, "Ashtyn!  What IS that?"  Ashtyn looked around, trying to determine what she was talking about.  She said, "What is what?"  And her friend responded, "What is that feeling?  I've never felt anything like that before.  It's so warm!"

Ashtyn's friend described feeling comfortable and safe and just happy.  It was hard for her to put into words how she was feeling, and she didn't really know what that feeling was.  I believe she was feeling the Spirit of the Lord; and oh, how I hope she is not the only one who has felt that in our home!

A week or so ago Ashtyn had a date with a young man she met at Institute.  Lemme tell you, I don't think our house has ever been more messy.  Ash had been baking, dishes hadn't been done for a few days.  There was projects stuff all over the table and shoes and coats were pooped on the floors, chairs, and table.  When that young man arrived Ashtyn apologized for the messy house.  He said, "It's not messy.  I was just thinking what a lovely home you have."

Well, my friends, I used to have a clean house (before I worked).  It used to be a bigger priority than it is right now.  There used to never be clean laundry sitting on the table--it got put away immediately.  There were rarely dirty dishes on the counter, and NEVER overnight.  I would have DIED if someone had come over to see what that young man saw.  Now?  Well, I still hate it, but there is only so much I can accomplish. 

And in the end, if our guests, friends, and family can feel something warm in our home, that's more important than anything else.  I am very grateful today for our home.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Christmas Successes

I made 125 Christmas ornaments.  They have been given to the Fishes, the Vukis, the Giffords, and the Hills.  With the exception of about 25 homes, they are also delivered to the neighbors.  I will finish that tomorrow.  I will get them packaged up for all our missionaries and send them on Monday.

The gifts for my co-workers (the ladies) are finished.  I need to write cards and bring them in for delivery on Monday.

We went to the First Presidency Christmas devotional on Sunday.  Beautiful.  Amazing.  Wonderful.  Best part?  The organ postlude!  Seriously fantastic.  Even the Tab Choir clapped at the end.

We have tickets to see Voice Male!  Yay!

Taylor's Christmas gift is finished and in the mail (as of yesterday).  I hope to get Bri's finished this weekend and sent out on Monday.

I got the PERFECT gift for my Orem friend.  No pressure, Ame, but seriously, you're gonna smile and finger-wiggle.  Email your address to me and I will mail it so you don't have the pressure of opening it when I'm there.  :)

The Christmas tree and decorations went up the day after Thanksgiving.  Doesn't seem like a big deal, does it?  Believe me.  It is.  It wasn't December.  It wasn't even Bri's birthday yet!

I saw "The Rise of the Guardians."  It has Santa Claus; it counts!  I'm still planning on the annual watching of "White Christmas" and "A Miracle on 34th Street" (the newer version).

I'm singing in the ward choir.  Three of the tenors are 11- and 12-year-old boys.  They melt my heart a little bit.  We'll sound like a ward choir, but it will be an enthusiastic ward choir.

I have my dad's, my two nieces', and one of my MIL's gifts.  That doesn't seem to put much of a dent in things, does it?  I'm still counting it as a success, especially since we're only 1 week into December.  I hope to at least finish the California group this weekend so everything can go in the mail--you guessed it--on Monday.

I have a poinsettia (not dead yet!) and three small nativity scenes on my desk at work.

I led the hymns at our department devotional.  Shana chose "Joy to the World" since she knows it's my favorite.  We've also started our 12 Days of Christmas treats, and I have even done my part already.  Woot!

We went to the ward Christmas party, greeted many friends and neighbors, and ate (more) yummy food.

There is still a lot to do, but so far it's been a wonderful, beautiful Christmas season for me.  I hope you can say the same!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Today's Pinterest activity

What was pinned

What I made
I'm going to buy nametags and a necklace and a tie tack.  Then I'm going to fill these cute things and send them off.  I'm really pleased with how they turned out.  (Shout out to DI!)

I also completed the gifts for my girlfriends at work.  Tomorrow we will deliver our neighbor gifts.

Happy December and Merry Christmas, everyone!