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.

For Mother’s Day – Love your daughter’s Mom

Happy Mother’s Day!

Just found a beautiful message for this holiday, based on a talk by Elaine Dalton.

Here is the transcript of the entire talk, and one of the quotes that I love the most –

You are your daughter’s guardian in more than the legal sense. Be present in your daughter’s life. Let her know your standards, your expectations, your hopes and dreams for her success and happiness. Interview her, get to know her friends and, when the time comes, her boyfriends. Help her understand the importance of education. Help her understand that the principle of modesty is a protection. Help her choose music and media that invite the Spirit and are consistent with her divine identity. Be an active part of her life. And if in her teenage years she should not come home from a date on time, go get her. She will resist and tell you that you have ruined her social life, but she will inwardly know that you love her and that you care enough to be her guardian. (Love Her Mother, Sister Elaine S. Dalton, General Conference, October 2011)

Internet Safety For Our Youth

'J' getting her first taste of technology

My daughters are already learning their way around technology.  My five year old can connect to the internet and I have an account for her with some of her favorite little games (sesame street ABC’s, Strawberry Shortcake, etc.) and my two year old is now trying to figure out how to send a text to her grandma.  🙂

So, in the midst of this unprecedented technological era, I’ve been worried about teaching, training and staying ahead of the curve when it comes to protecting my babies.  I came across a fantastic article in BYU’s Alumni Magazine entitled, THE DANGEROUS DIGITAL VORTEX, with the byline; Savvy parents connect with their children to build powerful family firewalls.

The author interviewed BYU associate professor of computer science, Charles D. Knutson who stated; “Increasingly, technology is the air we breathe. … We have to acclimate our children and teach them and train them how to live in a world where that is their reality.”

The article pointed out that dangerous areas such as pornography and predators in chat rooms are not the only thing to worry about.  “Sexting”, cyber bullying, Facebook, video games, and even too much texting can be areas that, if left unchecked, can become major problems.  Prevention, and frank discussion is vital to training our children and youth.

Under a section entitled –  Internet Filters and Computers in the Kitchen Are Not Enough, the author stated;

Responsible parents know not to put a computer in a child’s bedroom, but Knutson has found that some don’t think twice about handing their son or daughter a cell phone with a browser, messaging, and a camera. “You give your kids iPhones and they have the entire world at their fingertips. They’re taking it to bed with them, and maybe they’re accessing porn or maybe they’re just up until 4 in the morning texting their friends.” Parents who do this “have an absolute disconnect” about what they’ve done.

The solution is for parents to keep up on the latest technologies. They must investigate thoroughly and put limits on any devices they buy. That means adding filters, disabling questionable features, and controlling access. Some parents keep custody of the devices; the children check them out when it’s agreed they’re needed and check them back in at specified times, such as during homework hours or bedtime.

I think that is SOOO important to remember.  Technology for teens is a privilege – NOT a right.  Just like driving the car.  We need to teach our children responsibility, and intelligence.

For example –

  • Texting language is not correct;  just because your friends type “thru” and “C U L8TR” doesn’t mean that it is accepted as proper English. (When one uses texting language in his/her college papers, it only makes that person look illiterate.  And, please don’t think it hasn’t happened, I have graded too many of these papers during my six years teaching on the college level.)
  • It’s important to have conversations.  The art of conversing will allow one to go far in life.  A lot further than those who only know how to text their thoughts and feelings.
  • There are many AMAZING activities in life that can be done without technology.  In order to learn those skills, one needs to unplug!

The author also states that not allowing any technology in the home is not a good idea.

Some parents are so terrified by the prospect of their children having access to the digital world that they “pull the plug”—they forbid any and all technology in their homes. “That solution creates a false sense of security,” says Knutson. “Your children still have access to computers at the library, at school, and at their friends’ houses. And they’re going to leave home. If they go to college, now they have a laptop for the very first time, and they’ve never had to contend with what that world looks like. It’s like tossing a kid into a swimming pool who’s never seen one before.”

Pulling the plug also denies children and families the positive connectivity of the digital world, which includes Church websites, General Conference, and valuable instruction of many kinds.

The most important thing to do is to make sure that families have good communication about the world in which they live.

Knutson says that when there’s emotional connection in the family, there’s a huge amount of protection. Add to that gospel teachings, and you have what amounts to a near firewall against harmful technology.

“I really believe that this is the fire this generation has to pass through,” says Knutson. “It’s the river of filthiness in Lehi’s dream. He said the iron rod was on the riverbank, so when you’re clinging to the rod, you’re very close to the river. It’s muddy, and you get splashed. But you can’t let go and move further from the filthiness. You’re where you’re supposed to be. It’s not your location that’s safe or unsafe—it’s how you behave despite your proximity to temptation. We cannot withdraw from the world but instead are called to be in it while we hold on to the scriptures, good parents, others who are godly, and, most of all, the Savior.”

You can read the entire article here.  Also, the BYU professor has a website dedicated to Internet Safety which can be found here.

 

How Women Can Gain Power: A Response to “Why Standard’s Night is Sub-Standard – teaching sexuality to young women”

I just read a very fascinating article by Kathryn Soper, entitled – Why Standards Night Is Substandard: Teaching Sexuality to the Young Women.

She talked about a young girl’s need to feel love, quoting an article by President Benson:

I recognize that most people fall into sexual sin in a misguided attempt to fulfill basic human needs. We all have a need to feel loved and worthwhile. We all seek to have joy and happiness in our lives. Knowing this, Satan often lures people into immorality by playing on their basic needs. He promises pleasure, happiness, and fulfillment (The Message: The Law of Chastity, New Era, January 1988).

She states – To put it simply, thirteen-, fourteen-, and fifteen-year-old girls don’t have sex because they desperately want sex. They have sex because they desperately want something else. President Benson points out several psychological necessities we mistakenly seek through illicit sex — love, joy, fulfillment… .

Then she  names another reason that young girls begin to harness their own sexuality – the thrill of power that  she finds when she learns that she is becoming a woman and can capture the attention of men.

To tell you the truth, I knew exactly what she meant as she talked about the first time she wore mascara to a dance when she was a young woman.  I remembered the moments in my life when I felt that power.

There was a poignant moment when she discussed a mother, desperately worried about her daughter’s intimate relationship, and she (the author) asked if the daughter [had] power in her life.

Then she said that the mother, looked uneasy, and I didn’t blame her. Power is not a commodity we associate with Mormon girls and women. To our ears the very concept of power sounds worldly and corrupt, unless we’re talking about priesthood power, which we qualify as exclusively masculine. But I wasn’t talking about priesthood power, and I wasn’t talking about the steel-fisted power of a political dictator or corporate mogul, either.

I tried to explain. “What I mean is, does Amy sense that she’s in control of her own life? That she has the right and the ability and the opportunity to get what she wants and what she needs?”

Finally she discussed the problem with that kind of power –

She knows the power of sexual attraction, but she doesn’t need a man’s approving gaze or hungry touch to feel strong… All of humanity suffers every time a woman, young or not, uses her body not to express herself, but to secure a self; not to feel pleasure, but to gratify another’s; not to share love, but to barter for it.

While I agreed with most of her arguments and enjoyed her writing style, I felt frustrated that she didn’t take it a step further and talk about HOW to gain power in other ways, or offer suggestions to young women leaders and mothers about HOW to teach Standard’s Night.

May I submit that women need to find avenues to channel their powers, and places to turn to find confidence and self-esteem.  One of those places is in creation.

I read an article several years ago about a young teenage girl who was involved in self-mutilation (cutting).  The mother knew that her daughter loved to do art.  So she took her to an art store and bought her girl some expensive supplies to “keep her hands busy” when she felt the urge to do damage to herself.

Not only does that give the girl an outlet, it helps build the confidence and self-esteem that the girl needs.  Then wise parents and friends will reach out and give her the attention then she is crying out for, but if they don’t she can find it in other ways.

At an early age, I wanted the good opinion of others (I still do at times.  I think that is part of the human package) but I learned that the only way to get the attention and love that my soul craved was through the feelings of the Holy Spirit, telling me that I was unique, special, loved and approved of.

How much more satisfying it is when we receive the praise of God, knowing that it is fully justified and that His love and respect for us will persist, when usually the praise of men is fleeting and most disappointing (President N. Eldon Tanner, Ensign, Nov. 1975, p.76).

So there is power to be found in the act of creation, whether it be creating a healthy body, a work of culture, a work of kindness.  There is power to be found in developing our unique gifts and talents.

But the power that will be the most satisfying is the power that comes when the Soul (meaning the Spirit and Body together) gain strength.  This is what we must teach at Standards Night.  There was a reason that the Savior had the ability to perform his mighty miracles.

Remember the story of the woman that had an issue of blood? For twelve years, she  looked for a cure but was unable to find it.  Then she heard of Jesus and thought within herself – If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole.

She went through a large group of people and touched the hem of his garment  – And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague.

That story is miraculous, but our discussion is centered around what comes next – And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that avirtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes?

His power and strength came from his virtue.  That power went out of Him, and He felt it leave.

The disciples then said to Him, “what are you talking about, look at all of these people that are surrounding you, they’re all touching you.”

But He knew, that an individual in that crowded mass needed His power, healing and His recognition to make herself whole.

When the author of the above article stated “we’re talking about priesthood power, which we qualify as exclusively masculine” she failed to mention Whose Priesthood power the men of the Church hold.  In ancient days, the Priesthood was called  – the aHoly Priesthood, after the bOrder of the Son of God (Doc. & Cov. 107:2-4) and regardless of who administers the power, it belongs to the Savior and it is available to all who have the need of it for strength, healing, love, forgiveness, guidance and power.

This is what we should be teaching at Standard’s Night.  That the way to feel His power when we need it is to reach out and touch Him, even the hem of His garment if that’s all that you can reach.  We should show the girls that the way to reach Him is through preparation, repentance, and by using the WORD of God in our talks and lessons and daily lives.

Then we should teach how to channel our own power as Creative beings and as Spiritual beings.

Let bvirtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thycconfidence wax strong in the dpresence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the edews from heaven. Doc & Cov 121:45.
These are things that everyone can do, at any time, regardless of who we are or what we’ve done.  These are things that, if instilled in our young daughters, will raise a generation of women who [refuse] to be objectified and sexualized … [refuse] to be consumers of those things which subtly undermine … divine identity and … moral character.  … The blessings of virtuous women who keep their covenants are so vast and so grand they are almost incomprehensible. (Elaine Dalton, Arise and Shine Forth: A Return to Virtue, April 29, BYU Women’s Conference).

These women would be powerful, because they would know how to gain the Divine power and the respect of God. Then they would be taught by the Holy Ghost.  They would learn to be creators and always feel fulfilled and nourished, with the ability to strengthen and nourish others.