Being a Powerful Woman (part 2 – Spiritual Gifts)

(This cake was created by my daughters to celebrate Father’s Day last year. While not perfect, it’s amazingly creative for girls making it from scratch [that’s homemade fondant] and without any prompting on my part!)

My dear sisters, you have special spiritual gifts and propensities. Tonight I urge you, with all the hope of my heart, to pray to understand your spiritual gifts—to cultivate, use, and expand them, even more than you ever have. You will change the world as you do so.

Sisters’ Participation in the Gathering of Israel, President Russell M. Nelson, October 2018.

To continue my discussion about how I am training my girls to be powerful spiritual women, I want to talk about spiritual gifts and propensities as well as physical talents.

I believe that the keys to “cultivate, use, and expand these gifts” are to teach them to practice and to be creative.

The power of small moments

The first is be wise with time. The thief of developing talents is not be in the habit of daily practice. Are we truly aware of the difference that small moments (15 minutes or so) can make when taken advantage of each day? (And obviously, if I am in a consistent pattern and miss a day here or there, it will still be okay as long as I continue.) Practice must be intentional. With all of the distractions of life, talents and gifts can be procrastinated out of existence!

I’m encouraging my children to find what they like, and to work on those things daily (while they’re young and the days are more unstructured than life will be when they reach older teenage years and adulthood). When I see them on a device, we run through a list of things that they need to do (homework, chores, etc.) and then areas in which they would like to improve (music, art, special projects, creativity, etc.). We made a calendar so that they could track daily practice to see progress.

Perhaps these things are little, but I think too many women are engaged in the smallness of spending life scrolling on social media, or shopping sites, or binge watching, or playing games – constantly comparing, constantly looking for the “newest and the best”, constantly being entertained – rather than living life. (And, yes, I’m pointing the finger at myself here too! 🥴)

Creativity to develop gifts

The second area that will train my girls to “cultivate, use, and expand these gifts” is to learn to be creative.

Let me give two examples of this.

In our family of daughters, it’s pretty easy for my husband to feel overwhelmed. Last year, our youngest daughter (age 4 at the time) finding out that it was Father’s Day, decided to “throw him a giant party!” She enlisted the help of her older sisters and they decorated, made gifts, games, and food and we had a special day celebrating their Dad. (See the picture of the cake above.) The amazing thing was, they didn’t enlist my help or money. They did it all themselves with things that we had around the house. Creative ingenuity and problem solving will be a blessing in developing gifts and talents.

Second, with the many blessings that technology has brought to us, there are myriads of creative ways that one could use to help develop talents. If I don’t have money for dance lessons, I could look for YouTube videos on the basics of dance and practice at home. And if I couldn’t find videos, I could look for books at the free public library that taught basic dance steps. And if I couldn’t get to the library, I could play music and create dance steps. And if I couldn’t play music, I could sing and then dance. (You get the picture!)

I believe powerful women take advantage of time and opportunity to creatively develop and train themselves. In this way, they improve and beautify the world, both around and within themselves.

We are expected to develop ourselves

From here, I could move on to talk about the parable of the talents, (Matthew 25:14–30) and how if we don’t develop them we could be in serious trouble when the judgement comes. I love the fact that though the parable talks of talents (as in money from that time period) it is easy to use the parable to teach about talents (as in gifts, propensities, etc.). I will leave you, the reader, to explore and ponder this parable in light of the discussion.

Not just physical talents

At the end of the day however, physical talents are not the only thing that a powerful spiritual woman needs to cultivate, though these are important.

There is a whole world of spirituality that will bless her life and the lives of many for the eternities. If I teach each daughter to be aware of how the Holy Spirit prompts her individually, our home now and her future will be rich. The Spirit will refine her and help teach internal beauty such as how to be kind, how to listen, how to reach out and put another’s need above your own, how to love and befriend those who are difficult to love and befriend.

She will then follow in the footsteps of the Savior who spent His days and His gifts and talents, blessing and serving all around. There is no denying how the Lord’s unique ministry and teachings have blessed and lifted the world.

Internal goodness and spirituality are qualities that this world desperately needs but the world at large is seldom, if ever, teaching women to gain. At least, I rarely see these qualities taught in video games, online shopping, news articles, or in music, movies and shows. They would craft women to be self-serving, self absorbed, self obsessed, and even violent. “Sex and violence sells” so they tell me, but these qualities don’t have the power to lift and bless. So, if my works never sell, what does it matter? I’m looking to generate the true spiritual power of womanhood that I believe can change the world for good. And if all I change and better is my little corner of this vast universe, so be it.

Moving forward

My next job is to help guide my girls to uncover and develop those spiritual gifts and teach them to use the gifts (both the physical talents and spiritual gifts) for uplifting and edifying others (as is taught in Doctrine and Covenants 46).

And all these gifts come from God, for the benefit of the children of God. (D&C 46: 26).

And that will be the topic of my next post. For now, thank you for reading and I welcome your comments. I’d especially love to hear your thoughts, scriptures, and quotes about spiritual gifts.

Being a Powerful Woman (part 1 – Edification)

(Someone kindly left these beautiful flowers in my office last week – what a kind and very appreciated thing to do!)

On Friday I read this scripture from Proverbs 14:1

Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.

It was the day after I had been emotionally triggered by an awkward situation in which a woman who I was sent to for help was quite rude to me. (Now, I’m not sure who the woman was, nor what kind of day she had, but her words held nothing to help during a situation in which I was already quite vulnerable.)

As I pondered that scripture and the behavior of the night before, I began to think about womanhood. And what I’m teaching my daughters about being a real woman. I decided to write a few pieces of advice here to give to them later.

Building Up and Tearing Down

To edify means to build something up. I think women who build others are quite remarkable.

I’ve read many articles lately about “being a woman in a man’s world” and about how if a woman is in a position to correct then she is seen as a “witchy woman” and “oh! The unfairness if it all.” And maybe it is unfair. But perhaps, we’re doing it wrong when we’re doing it in the way that everyone else does it.

Perhaps, it’s because (whether male or female) we’re tearing other humans down instead of using our unique gifts and talents to bless them.

Yes, we will need to correct, and yes, feelings can and will get hurt as we deal with others, but we can still be kind. We can build a person up after the correction or disappointment. (See Doctrine and Covenants 121: 41-43 on the correct pattern for both how to maintain power and influence as well as how to correct) in fact, the promise is that doing this shall –

greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy and without guile – [.]

What a heaven on earth this world would be if we treated each person with the main goal of leaving them better than when we first met them!

An Example of Correction

I’ll give an example of correction. A while ago, a student was flustered and began to yell at his teacher. In a soft but firm voice, she told him that it was evident that there was some major emotion that he was feeling about the situation, but she wasn’t the one to cause those feelings. Then she assured him that she’d be happy to talk to him about it after he had some time to settle down those emotions.

After resolving the situation, she expressed the belief that they could come to areas of agreement and then pointed out some of the strengths that she had seen in his work to make sure that he knew that there were no hard feelings. She also wanted to ensure that the relationship could live and thrive well past that moment.

Perhaps one may think it’s silly, but I believe that we can practice and succeed in taking the anger and rudeness out of relationships.

Criticism versus Kindness – who are we training ourselves to be?

One way to start is to begin to train ourselves to be less critical of others. Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, “The Virtue of Kindness“, April 2005 stated,

The things you say, the tone of your voice, the anger or calm of your words—these things are noticed by your children and by others. They see and learn both the kind and the unkind things we say or do. Nothing exposes our true selves more than how we treat one another in the home.

I often wonder why some feel they must be critical of others. It gets in their blood, I suppose, and it becomes so natural they often don’t even think about it. They seem to criticize everyone—the way Sister Jones leads the music, the way Brother Smith teaches a lesson or plants his garden.

Even when we think we are doing no harm by our critical remarks, consequences often follow.

It is a marvelous talk with some very simple and yet profound principles. My favorite of which is –

Kindness is the essence of a celestial life. Kindness is how a Christlike person treats others.

Working to build others instead of tearing them down is a mark of greatness and is just one way in which women can truly find the nature of true spiritual power.

To Nurture and Teach – thoughts on my role as a woman.

To Nurture and Teach – thoughts on my role as a woman.

I’ve been reflecting deeply on my role as a teacher lately, not only as a teacher in a professional or church setting, but as a mother. I watched this “Happy Families” message the other day and it struck me how simply this mother taught her children from a very young age and the fruits that it bore.

After watching it, I began to invite my older daughters again to help me in the kitchen (something I had done before, but not continued) and they were thrilled to help me make smoothies and grilled cheese sandwiches and spaghetti and salads – simple things, but they were so happy to help. Actually, I ask one at a time to help (taking turns helping cook and play with the baby) and that seems to make things go a little more smoothly in my house.

I also have been trying to teach the baby (she’s 16 months old) to help as well. Every time we clean up toys, I show her where the toys go and give SO much praise if she can catch on to the simple task of putting the items in the bin. I’ve also started to have her help with the laundry. I place the wet clothes from the wash into a basket and she puts them in the dryer for me (and of course I praise her for her good work and efforts).

But it doesn’t stop there. I’ve been reviewing my role to be a teacher of the gospel in the home. I was a full-time seminary teacher for seven years and so I’ve always known that I could teach them, but for some reason, I thought that it was my hubby’s role to be the teacher (you know as the “presider”, see the Family Proclamation). I always assumed that we’d share the teaching responsibilities, (and in some ways we do) but I guess I’ve been waiting for him to get up and take charge with family scripture study, etc. Please understand, my husband is a good man, but I’ve been the one to remind the family to pray, read, and have FHE on a consistent basis.

So I’ve been pondering a lot lately if I am usurping a role that will help him to grow as I continue to insist on religious family activities. I’m not sure. But the more I insist on the activities, the more he becomes involved – yay!

Lately, I’ve come to the conclusion that part of my role as a mother as the primary nurturer of our family is that of teacher and that it shouldn’t be one that I can neglect or delegate away or my children won’t learn basic things like laundry or dishes or meal prep or spiritual things like having a personal relationship with the Lord. And, I’ve been wondering if other women in the church are having the same struggle.

Years ago, I wrote my master’s thesis on the Spirituality of women and conducted some primary research to see how confident LDS women felt in giving talks, teaching lessons, and speaking about gospel doctrine (making comments in class, etc). The results were that women who had experience with testifying (i.e. serving a mission) or daily experiences with personal study of the scriptures were much more likely to feel confident discussing the gospel, and I assume feel much more confident teaching the gospel at home. Well, maybe we can’t be a missionary now, but we can have daily experiences in the scriptures!

Right before I had my baby, a dear friend asked me for ideas on how to study the scriptures. I began to compile some ideas, which I will now post as these ideas about teaching and studying are becoming more fresh and clear. To begin the next several posts, I want to quote from a talk by Elder Bednar which discusses the VITAL need for teaching in the home.

Brothers and sisters, think of the total amount of time in a week devoted to doctrinally based, spirit-filled instruction for our young people through the programs of the Church. Let’s assume they go to seminary. That might yield three or four hours of quality instruction during the course of the week. What would they receive in church on Sunday? Thirty minutes in sacrament meeting; thirty minutes in Sunday School; and thirty minutes in Young Men’s, Young Women’s, or Gospel Doctrine. A total of maybe five, six, or seven hours for the entire week, if we are optimistic. Think of the evil influences in the world. Will the Church and its programs alone safeguard you and me and our children in an increasingly wicked world? The answer is no. Please do not misunderstand this statement–I would not trust my children exclusively to the programs of the Church. I love the Church, but the Church operates as a support to you and to me as we create a home that is a house of learning. First and foremost, the responsibility is ours as parents to create a Christ-centered, spirit-filled home environment where the Holy Ghost can teach and testify to our children. If they know the why, they will quickly learn the how.

Take a look a the full talk – Teach them to Understand from a  1998 (then) Rick’s College Education Week address. I have sent it to my husband and we are going to study it together and try to find ways to make our home a better place of gospel learning.mormonad-unlimited-text-messages-1118424-gallery

Finally, I’ll leave with a couple of ideas for daily personal scripture study and a challenge. My sister is an amazing spiritual woman. When she had a lot of young’ins running around the home, she went to the distribution center and picked up a bunch of the cheapy copies of the Book of Mormon and placed one in every room in her house (bathroom included). Then, if she found herself with a moment or two in the bustle of mommy life, she would read a verse or two. She said that just by giving those few minutes of time, she had given a sacrifice to God and was taught from the scriptures.

Another idea is to listen to the scriptures (digital formats can be found here) while you are folding clothes, doing dishes, or being a taxi cab.

The challenge is to study this week. Everyday, study something in the scriptures (not someone’s thoughts of the scriptures) and ask the Lord to teach you. I know He will bless us in this endeavor in our own lives and we will find ways to teach our children as well.

Please feel free to share your thoughts, questions, ideas, experiences or scripture reading tips!