Wednesday, October 3, 2018

WITS: Eve and Marital Intimacy

One October night as we were riding home in the car with our daughter, she asked what my husband and I were going to be for Halloween. (We have a big family party where handsome prizes are doled out for the best couples' costumes.) Both devoid of ideas, Jeff facetiously suggested we go as Adam and Eve. I responded, "But what if I don't like my Eve costume any more?" (lamenting the current state of my body). He responded, "Well I still like your Eve costume!" Our daughter thought this conversation was hilarious! But it was reassuring to me that he still likes my "Eve costume" (i.e. naked body) after thirty years of marriage!

In Genesis 2:24-25 the Lord teaches Eve (and Adam) about physical intimacy in marriage.
24 Therefore shall a aman leave his bfather and his mother, and shall ccleave unto his dwife: and they shall be eone flesh.
25 And they were both anaked, the man and his wife, and were not bashamed.

In a previous post I wrote about verse 25 in terms of body image, and not being ashamed of the beautiful gift we've been given to house our spirits. Today I want to look that same verse in terms of marriage.  I have always been a little shy about my body, and reticent to get physically involved with any of my dates. It completely surprised me on my wedding night how ready I was to give myself completely to Jeff. It seemed like the most natural thing in the world to be naked, and not ashamed. With the right person, at the right time, is how God intended marital intimacy, and under those conditions I received the gift Adam and Eve had in the garden of be together, completely trusting and vulnerable, with no shame attached.

I love that marital intimacy is a commandment. A commandment separate from the commandment to multiply and replenish the earth. It is certainly not just for the purpose of procreation. When my gynecologist explained that to me before we were married—that it's a commandment, that God wants us to be "one flesh"—it suddenly made so much sense. Many times I have thanked the Lord for the permission and gift of sexual intimacy within the bonds of marriage. To become "one flesh" is one of the most loving, healing, and bonding acts and such a beautiful expression of love.

A friend once told me that Satan does everything in his power to get you to have sex before marriage, and then he does everything in his power to keep you from making love to each other after marriage...exactly opposite what the Lord desires for us. It is so important not to let minor squabbles or too-full calendars get in the way of the precious togetherness that is one of the sweetest privilege of the marriage relationship.

Question: How comfortable am I in sharing my body with my husband? Am I truly giving myself to him, and finding joy in that sacred relationship? Am I careful to avoid anything that would interfere with this gift of intimacy?

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

WITS: Eve and the Marriage Partnership

One day when we were dating, Jeff was talking to me about his future goals (moving to Los Angeles, going to film school at USC, and having a career as a writer/producer/director in the film industry). I can still remember exactly where I was, what I was doing, where I was standing. As I listened to these grand plans, there was a precise moment when the spirit whispered to me, "...and you're going to be the one to help him." I didn't say a word to him at the time, but I knew then and there that we would eventually get married.

That's the first image that came to mind when I read the term "help meet" in Genesis 2:18—that I had a divine assignment to help my husband achieve his goals, to be his partner.
"It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him." 
At first glance, "help meet" sounds a little like a servant or underling, but it actually means a "helper suited to, worthy of or corresponding to him." Another definition I read is "a power equal to save." It is definitely an equal partnership; not an inferior role.

In Moses 5:1 it says, "Eve did labor with him." Again, a partnership. In The Family: A Proclamation to the World we're told that "in these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help each other as equal partners." For our entire marriage, I have worked alongside Jeff to contribute to the family finances, and he has worked alongside me in the raising of our children.

Eve, as the world's first official wife, can teach us much about that sacred assignment. The equality mentioned above creates a solid footing for healthy intimacy in marriage as well. 

Question: How can I be sure I am helping my husband in the ways he needs most? Am I a worthy partner for this great man?

Monday, October 1, 2018

WITS: What does Eve teach us about body image?

Genesis 1: 26-27
Let us make man in our own image, after our [plural] likeness...
In the image of God created he him, male and female created he them

Women, too are created in God's image. And as the plural connotes, very likely in the image of a female goddess, a Heavenly Mother who is a partner to God the Father.

The word Man often refers to Mankind, Adam is a surname of sorts, referring to both individuals Adam and Eve at times, (the Lord called their name Adam) and the name Elohim means plural Gods, or Brother and Sister God, if you will, a husband and wife.

Genesis 1: 31
And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very agood. And the evening and the morning were the bsixth day.

God evaluated his work at the end of each creative period. And each time it was pronounced good. Only after creating the woman was God's work pronounced "very good."

Clearly our bodies are divine gifts, in the image of divine, exalted beings. They are an essential step in reaching a greater likeness to those in whose image we were created. And they are in his words "very good."

Question: So why do we as women have a natural inclination to be critical of, ashamed of, and even loathe our bodies?

One answer is in Genesis! God teaches us to love, use, clothe and care for our bodies, beginning with Eve in the Garden of Eden. Yet there remains some very real pain and shame associated with exposing our beautiful female bodies. In Genesis 2:25 it says, "They were both naked, and were not ashamed." So what happened?

In 2014 I was chosen to read an essay I wrote on Body Image to a large audience, at an event called Listen to Your Mother. It's called Bodies in My Basement . It documents some of my own body image issues, and the way I used to hide my body in shame at the pool rather than participate in the laughter and fun in the water with my children. Here are portions of the concluding paragraphs:

I yearn to develop an Artist's Eye—the Creator’s view—toward my own body. I remember that form follows function. I’m slowly learning to rejoice in my ripples and curves rather than lamenting the loss of the hardbody of my twenties. It’s easier to love the pillow of padding on my belly when I remember how I earned it: creating life, giving birth—four miraculous times. Through conceiving, bearing, feeding and nurturing children—through motherhood—I have finally used every part of my body exactly as it was designed, every function for its intended purpose. I may not look perfect, but I am complete.

I make a conscious decision to own my complete form and join my children in the pool. ...I enter the water slowly, tentatively at first. I take a step, and then another. ..I throw on an imaginary cloak of invisibility, shutting out judgement and shame.

The water catches ripples of light, sparkling in the sun. The initial shock of cold gives way to a refreshing escape from the heat of the day. I am immersed. Lifting my head, catching my breath, feeling clean and alive, I see my children’s faces, beaming. They don’t notice the varicose veins or the dimples of cellulite. They see their mother, present and joyful.... They may not be aware of the pride I sacrificed to join them in the pool, but I can tell they sense the love behind the gesture. Their smiles and enthusiasm tell me their happiness multiplied when I finally summoned the courage to dive in, all in. With them.

Well, in Genesis 3, vs 7-8 Eve has an encounter with Satan.  Satan wants us to feel ashamed of our bodies and hide them because he doesn't have a body of his own; he lost that privilege! He wants to taint our experience with embarrassment and shame. Only after Eve (and Adam) encounter Satan and partake of the fruit are they "ashamed" and "hide themselves." Satan is the original source of our body image issues. The closer we connect to God and learn from Him, like Eve did, how to value, care for, use, love, and cover our bodies, the healthier our body image will become.

Questions: In what ways do I fall prey to Satan's trap and begin to devalue or feel ashamed of my body? Can I distance myself from media, people, and other sources that offer me a skewed, unhealthy perspective on body image and issues? 

How can I better celebrate my body as the divine gift that it truly is? What do I love about my body? Do I express daily gratitude for my body? Do I clothe my body in ways that show honor and respect for both its form and its functions?

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Keep your WITS* about you! (*Women in the Scriptures)

This past week I began a new focus to my scripture study. Following an idea from my friend and Living Room podcast co-host, Paige Sorensen, I began studying with a focus on Women in the Scriptures. I am going very slowly, focusing on depth rather than breadth, and asking myself poignant, open-ended questions about how each woman's faith and experience could apply to my own life.

As Maria Von Trapp recommends, let's start from the very beginning, a very good place to start. Join me for a daily in-depth look at Women in the Scriptures and how their stories can impact our stories, beginning with Eve and the choice made in Eden.

*All Women in the Scriptures posts will have the acronym WITS in their title.

Friday, May 4, 2018

BOMT: An Inside Look at Temptation

Temptation is scary business. It's that alluring thread that pulls us someplace we know we shouldn't 
be heading, then knots us from in front and behind until we're stuck there. I don't like feeling stuck. 
Ever. But somehow when we see those captivating cords -- no matter how many times we've ventured down that rabbit hole -- we seem not to draw the inevitable conclusion at the end of the thread...the 
knot. Where our progress stops cold.

Photo by Sebastian Bischof from Pexels
My personal scripture study today reminded me of an experience about ten years ago when we picked up our son from the wilderness. 
We drove three hours to the Middle of Nowhere (otherwise known as Loa, Utah) to retrieve our son from a behavior modification program. We underwent a half-day of therapy before we were reunited with our boy. And then participated in a day and a half of communication exercises and family therapy once we were reunited. Most of the kids there were trying to beat an addiction of some sort. One of the concepts that stuck with me was the acronym H A L T T. 


They taught us that we are at our very weakest when we're in one of these states, the least able to resist temptation. And the best response is to stop. or HALT. (with a double T).  Don't latch onto that flaxen cord when our defenses are down!

Today in my reading I noticed that when Christ was tempted, the scriptures also describe these weak 
states, when the body wants to rule the mind. 

King Benjamin prophesied of those suffering and temptations over 100 years before Christ was born: 

Mosiah 3:7 And lo, he shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death; ...

It would appear that managing our energy is a key to managing temptation.

Examine your physical state and then HALTT
A few chapters later we're given still more insight into how he managed temptation. 
Mosiah 15:5 And thus the flesh becoming subject to the Spirit ... asuffereth temptation, and yieldeth not to the temptation,
Strengthening our spirit to the point that it's in charge of our body—rather than the other way around—is one tactic the Savior used in order to stand his ground and "yield not" to temptation. we know how to strengthen our bodies (eat right, exercise), but how do we strengthen our spirits? (eat right --feasting on the word of God--and exercise faith through obedience, service and prayer.) The stronger our personal connection to our Father in Heaven the stronger our spirit will become.
Matthew 4:1-11
Then was Jesus led ...[alone]...into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, hewas afterward an hungred. And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. (presents doubt of divine parentage, appeals to his bodily hunger) But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. (Jesus quotes scripture to strengthen himself and ward off temptation. 
Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him [alone] on a pinnacle  of the temple,
And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. (presents doubt of divine parentage, wants him to commit suicide, basically) Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. (Jesus quotes scripture to strengthen himself and ward off temptation.)  Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, [remote place] and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. (Promises worldly power and glory in exchange for false worship.) 10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. (Jesus quotes scripture to strengthen himself and ward off temptation.)
11 Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.
The clear takeaway from these passages is how important it is to manage our energy, be aware of how our bodily state can affect our spiritual state, and become adept at not just knowing but using and 
living what we learn from the scriptures.

Question: What is tempting to you? How to you keep temptation at bay? What reminds you to HALT?

Friday, April 27, 2018

The Master Teacher

My dad is a master teacher. It is a pure gift combined with the power of a PhD. He is so good at engaging with his students, presenting the material in an exciting way, and motivating improvement. Growing up, even Family Home Evening became a major teaching event, with lessons I can still remember well.

I learned so much about teaching just by watching my dad over the years. While I remain in awe of him, I like to think I inherited a small portion of that gift. I am a teacher both at work (UVU) and at church (Relief Society). There is almost no place I'd rather be than in the classroom.

Yesterday I was studying about the teaching modes of Jesus in the New Testament and the Book of Mormon. Here is the Master of all master teachers. As I tried to digest each verse and comprehend what skill or tactic or power he was utilizing, I started composing a list of his teaching methods.  The prospect of improving my own teaching by relying on His expertise became very exciting to me.

As we wrap up the semester and move into finals, I can't help thinking how I might use some or all of these techniques in my own teaching, both at church and at work.

This is what I discovered: (I have a feeling I'll refer back to this list often.)

In His Arsenal:

Authority (Matt. 7:29, John 7:16,  John 12:50)
Storytelling, Parables (Matt. 13:10, Mark 4:2)
Earnestly Urge, Advise (Mark 1:14)
Entered the place of learning (in church on Sunday) Mark 1:21
Drew a Crowd (Mark 2:2)
Used the word of God (Mark 2:2, John 3:34)
Hidden mysteries (through parables)
Hard doctrine, difficult concepts (Mark 8:31)
Power (Luke 4:32)
Perception (understood their hearts) (Luke 5:22)
Sensitivity (Luke 24:17)
Contextualization, Perspective (Luke 24:27)
Scriptures (Luke 24:27)
The spirit (Luke 24:32)
Motivated by Love (John 21:17)
Truth (3 Nephi 11:32)
Wisdom (Matt: 13:54)
Example (Matt: 13:54)

Student Engagement:

Required Reading (Matt. 12:3 (12:1-8) )
Thought-provoking Questions (Matt: 12:3, Luke 7:42)
Sharing, bearing testimony (Mark 8:29)
Taught outdoors, various locations (Mark 4:1)
Problem-solving (Luke 5:22)
Let students form conclusions (Luke 7:42)
Asked for an accounting (3 Nephi 23:11-13)
Commandment to write about experiences (3 Nephi 23:11-13)
Told to pray for understanding (3 Nephi 17:3)
Told to ponder his teachings (3 Nephi 17:3)
Instructed to prepare for next session (3 Nephi 17:3)
Invited to come, approach him (3 Nephi 11:14)
Invited to gain their own, personal witness (3 Nephi 11:14)
Allowed for silence and self-reflection (John 8:7)
Invited to attempt, to gain own knowledge (John 7:17)
Affirmed student responses (Luke 7:43)
Pointed out student errors (Matt. 22:29)
Asked "Why not?" (Luke 24:26)
Took extra time with them (Luke 24:29-30)
Wrote on ground (or on board) (John 8:6)

May all of our teaching, in whatever form, become a little more inspiring, engaging, and powerful as we follow the example of the Master Teacher.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

BOMT: Don't Leave Me Out of the Plan! I'm Opting In!

Alma 34

This is another chapter I encountered on my daily quest through the Topical Guide, my core curriculum on Christ. I read the prescribed verse in the topical guide (Alma 34:8 "He shall atone for the sins of the world"), scanned the surrounding verses for context, and was completely enthralled as though I were reading it all again through fresh eyes (even though I've probably read it a hundred times before.)  I found three instances of Chiasmus (Hebrew poetry form that repeats itself in reverse like an X, with the most crucial part of the message at its core); and I also discovered THE KEY to opting into (or out of) the great plan of happiness.  

Here we go:

Another stunning discovery in my quest for spiritual growth is how essential it is to turn a corner and repent of wrongdoings. Honestly, sometimes I forget about repentance. If I haven't done something seriously wrong, it kind of falls off my radar screen. But two scriptures in Alma 34 completely changed my perspective on this:

In verse 16 it says:

"...Mercy can satisfy the demands of justice, and encircles them in the arms of safety, while he that exercises no faith unto repentance is exposed to the whole law of the demands of justice; therefore only unto him that has faith unto repentance is brought about the great and eternal plan of redemption.

Without faith unto repentance (the kind of faith that brings you to your knees and  brings about a change of heart) Mercy no longer has us in its grasp. The next line is even stronger and more clear: "only unto him that has faith unto repentance is brought about the great and eternal plan of redemption."

In other words, No repentance = No plan.

That's right, the amazing plan that our Father in Heaven presented to us before we ever came to earth, the plan to bring us back home to him someday, glorified and exalted, the plan which prophets have called "The Great and Eternal Plan of Redemption," "The Great Plan of Happiness," "The Great Plan of Mercy," "The Plan of Restoration," "The Great Plan of Salvation,"...that's right—a plan so big and important and powerful and loving no single title even does it justice—that plan has no effect in our lives if we're not exercising faith and repenting. 

Why did I never notice that before? It's the key to everything. Believe. Repent. Or you're not even part of the plan.

Thank heaven in verse 31 there's some hope for those of us who are a little slow to catch on.

"...if ye will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you."

That is so cool! Just when we thought it was too late and we are completely locked out of the plan...all we have to do is repent, and immediately the whole plan takes effect in our lives. We're back in! 

It's so simple. But so hard.

So of course as soon as I learn this concept, I'm given extra opportunities to repent. That's always the way it works, isn't it?

I offended a good friend. (And who knows how many others who didn't speak up?) I had a student confess a wrongdoing that made me feel guilty just by osmosis. I snapped at my husband. I got impatient with other drivers. I dropped balls. 

Here's what I learned. Repenting is hard. But it's easier than it is in our minds when we feel it looming on the horizon. And it's easier than procrastinating that hard conversation, that apology, that confession, the resolve to improve. It's definitely easier than carrying the weight and the burden of the errors and mistakes. And for sure it's better and easier than being ejected from the great plan of happiness. That would be horrible! 

So I'm opting in. I want to be part of the great eternal plan of mercy, redemption and love. I choose to exercise my faith. I choose to repent. I choose happiness.

QUESTION: How do you make repentance a part of your daily life?