Monday, April 5, 2010

On power ...

I needed this weekend. Family, Easter and General Conference. I have some thoughts about specific quotes from this year's LDS General Conference, but they aren't ready yet. It got me thinking, though. A lot was said about womanhood, motherhood, and gender roles. In short, a lot was said about feminism.

I loved Julie Beck's talk. Loved. Loved. Loved. And ever since Saturday when Elder Ballard spoke about the special bonds between mother and daughter -- family, children, work/home balance, child care, law school, marriage -- well, it's all been on the mind a lot more than usual, sneaking into the small breaks my mind gets during school between Constitutional Law and Civil Procedure and sometimes distracting me from Torts and Criminal Law. Then at home it's all I want to think, discuss, and read about.

Loving Julie Beck's talk so much, I Google'd her name. Most of the hits referred to the "Mothers Who Know" talk she gave a few years ago, which apparently caused the biggest stir since 1987 when women were instructed to come home and stay home full-time if possible. I read the 1987 talk for the first time tonight. Interesting stuff which left me flustered because it seemed incongruent with what I'd been taught. How could that be? How could such iconic advice, repeated so often in church meetings be so different sounding than what I'd heard growing up? It got me thinking more, and the more I thought, the more I was grateful for modern prophets. Because guess what? I'm not a mother in 1987. I am a woman in 2010 and will be a mother in the 21st century. I barely even existed in 1987. Maybe that means advice given to mothers in 1987 was not meant specifically for me. While basic principles and commandments remain true (have children, love them, teach them good things), the only specific counsel I am concerned about is that of my current leaders. (And thank goodness. Otherwise, we'd still be storing two years of pointless wheat instead of working toward a 3-month financial emergency fund or memorizing missionary discussions instead of studying from Preach My Gospel.) But surely, women, wives, and mothers in 2010 need some guidance, too. What is the counsel for me? What specific advice has my generation been given? What have we been asked to do? What were we told to plan for and plan on when we were youth, beginning to work toward all these goals?

I still remember this meeting. The incredible feeling of empowerment and light that went through me as he spoke. I remember coming out of that meeting feeling like I could take on the world. I remember feeling like there was someone in my corner. As a sophomore in high school, a prophet told me exactly what was expected of my generation and this was it:

Find purpose in your life. Choose the things you would like to do, and educate yourselves to be effective in their pursuit. For most it is very difficult to settle on a vocation. You are hopeful that you will marry and that all will be taken care of. In this day and time, a girl needs an education. She needs the means and skills by which to earn a living should she find herself in a situation where it becomes necessary to do so.

Study your options. Pray to the Lord earnestly for direction. Then pursue your course with resolution.

The whole gamut of human endeavor is now open to women. There is not anything that you cannot do if you will set your mind to it. You can include in the dream of the woman you would like to be a picture of one qualified to serve society and make a significant contribution to the world of which she will be a part.

I was in the hospital the other day for a few hours. I became acquainted with my very cheerful and expert nurse. She is the kind of woman of whom you girls could dream. When she was young she decided she wished to be a nurse. She received the necessary education to qualify for the highest rank in the field. She worked at her vocation and became expert at it. She decided she wanted to serve a mission and did so. She married. She has three children. She works now as little or as much as she wishes. There is such a demand for people with her skills that she can do almost anything she pleases. She serves in the Church. She has a good marriage. She has a good life. She is the kind of woman of whom you might dream as you look to the future.

For you, my dear friends, the sky is the limit. You can be excellent in every way. You can be first class. There is no need for you to be a scrub. Respect yourself. Do not feel sorry for yourself. Do not dwell on unkind things others may say about you. Particularly, pay no attention to what some boy might say to demean you. He is no better than you. In fact, he has already belittled himself by his actions. Polish and refine whatever talents the Lord has given you. Go forward in life with a twinkle in your eye and a smile on your face, but with great and strong purpose in your heart. Love life and look for its opportunities, and forever and always be loyal to the Church.

Guess what? We did it! I remember feeling strongly that I would serve a mission. I remember resolving to earn a graduate degree. I remember committing to nothing less than a temple marriage. I remember wanting to be a mother. I remember feeling relief and thinking "Did he really just use a working mom as an acceptable role model?" Covenants, education, excellence. THAT is what my generation was asked to do, and now we are doing it. All around me, I see my peers striving to improve their minds, their testimonies, their families, their communities. And this weekend, we got new sources of support and counsel to help us keep doing it. I love conference.


Eileen said...

I loved this post. LOVED it. Very insightful and you ask really thought-provoking questions. I actually just opened your blog in a new tab right before you showed me in our study group :)

I wish we didn't have our finals so we could chat about all this!

I love your blogging ways!

gurrbonzo said...

Amen, and amen.