Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Thoughts on Sister Becks' Talk

I finally have a moment to write (and not long). So I'll try to follow through on a promise I made to BiV to share my thoughts on Sister Beck's talk.

I listened to it again and took copious notes, so I could not simply be going on first impressions, but focusing more on the specific things she said.

After listening to the talk again, and paying particular attention to what got so much attention, I was struck by how much it seemed people missed in their first impressions. Her talk was about so much more than just housekeeping, or about ironed clothes on Sunday. It was about having a spiritual and eternal perspective in our most important roles and responsibilities.

Everything she addressed in my mind came back to one main thing -- that we need more than ever to be vigilant in focusing on creating an environment in the home where children can best grow spiritually and temporally. We need to prepare them for the future. What comes to mind is what then-Elder Eyring said:

The prophets of God have foreseen the times in which we live. The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.” Anyone with eyes to see the signs of the times and ears to hear the words of prophets knows that the peril is great. The peril comes from the forces of wickedness. Those forces are increasing. And so it will become harder, not easier, to keep the covenants we must make to live the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Sister Beck also talked about our perilous times, and how much vigilance we need as parents to make sure our children can face the challenges and responsibilities that lie ahead. If it will be harder as we go along to keep our covenants, that would suggest that we need to raise the bar in what we are doing in our spiritual lives and in our homes. That is what I see Sister Beck doing -- giving guidance on what mothers can do to make sure that they are doing 'all we can do' as leaders in our homes. I hear her reminding us that NOTHING else matters more. This is not new...we constantly hear that family responsibilities come first.

(Important to note is that she talked about being equal partners with our husbands in leading a 'great and eternal organization.')

BiV asked me specifically what my thoughts were on a few specific points, so I'll focus on those specifics first.

Education: Sister Beck said that education is not really worthwhile if we don't use our knowledge to create a climate for spiritual growth. In other words, I hear her saying that education is not an end, it is a means. Too often, I think we approach our goals as ends rather than means to help us help God fulfill His purposes. And too often, we put good things above what is essential. I think that is what she is driving at.

My impression with her words, especially when taken in context with other counsel we have received, is that if we pursue education for the sake of education and primarily for position, prestige and influence outside the home, we are missing the mark. All that we do should come back to God's work and glory, and that is focused on saving souls, particularly those in our families.

The prophets have also encouraged education in large measure as part of welfare principles of preparedness, not simply for personal fulfillment. (Sister Beck addressed the false doctrine of personal fulfillment in her RS talk as well.)

I believe an educated mother can benefit her children and her home in significant ways. The more educated we are, the more education will matter to our children, and the more prepared they will be for their future. Women will also be better able to provide (or help provide) for basic needs if necessary. And they will be better positioned to serve elsewhere (in the community, etc.) as guided by the Spirit. But Sister Beck's ordering of priorities is consistent with prophetic counsel. And it's clear she is inviting us to do more in our homes, which requires doing less elsewhere.

Nurturing, homemaking, etc.: Sister Beck defined nurturing more broadly than what has been focused on by many. She first defined nurturing as cultivating, caring for and making grow. She admonished us to 'create a climate for spiritual and temporal growth.' I think that is the backdrop for her comment that another word for nurturing is homemaking. But note that homemaking doesn't just mean housecleaning. It's making a home -- what I think she defined as a place for spiritual and temporal growth.

PART of helping children grow is being good examples of people who work, people who care about their surroundings. It also includes caring for the physical needs of our families, which means that we cook and clean. She in no way limited nurturing to only housekeeping chores, however. She also never said that men could never help with these things. (Did anyone notice that the picture shown when she mentioned the cooking, cleaning and such showed a DAD helping the children do dishes? I can't believe that was an accident. Again, equal partners work together to make sure these things happen. They work together to make a home. But the Proclamation teaches the rule that mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture and care of the children, because they are the ones who are counseled to be home during the day.)

She also made clear that keeping an orderly home isn't just about physical needs, or temporal training of our children (teaching them how to work), even though those things are important. An orderly home can help with spiritual growth as well.

I should say that perhaps my weakest point in mothering is housekeeping. That is made worse by chronic illness issues. Keeping a spotless house is nearly impossible for me, given my limited energy and my lack of ability in that area. So, sometimes when I hear counsel given to keep a clean house, I feel inadequate and overwhelmed, even depressed. I started down that path with her talk, but as I talked with my husband, I realized, as I am trying to remind myself constantly, that motherhood is a process. And I am trying to make improvements in our home so that we can have more order. I'm trying to rally the troops to do more to help with that. We are working together more in our family toward more cleanliness. Is not the process part of the counsel? Is there not much to be gained in trying to improve, even if the end result isn't perfect? Of course there is. Gospel living is always a process. And there is an Atonement to make up the difference when we have done the "very best we can" (quoting Pres. Hinckley).

I also will add something that brought a great deal of peace and perspective to me. Sister Beck talked about how the value we place on motherhood and attaining attributes of motherhood (even if we don't have children of our own!) will rise with us in the resurrection. Motherhood is about becoming. It is what MATTERS to us that matters to God. None of us will be perfect in what we do, in any facet of our lives. But if we are striving to be better, caring about what matters most, focusing on the 'best' (channeling Elder Oaks) things, the needful things, we will be blessed for our desires. God knows that I care about these things, and I'm trying to make changes toward making my mothering matter more. Isn't that what it's all about? We aren't being given END goals, we are being given guidance on the MEANS to eternally-important ends -- a spiritual home and an eternal family.

As to the Sunday best issue, there is another example of where I fall short, so my natural woman wanted to hide (or be frustrated) when she shared an example of children with pressed dresses and perfect hair.

But then I pondered the principle she was trying to teach. Was it really about appearances? NO. She was sharing an example of the way a woman can teach her children respect and honor for sacred ordinances and covenants. How many of us will get our children primped to perfection for a family photo, or impressing an important somebody (even Grandma) who is coming to dinner, or...(you get the drift). On the flip side, are you ever like me, trying to catch that extra 10 minutes of sleep on Sunday morning (because you stayed up too late Saturday night), and thus rush about, getting after (read: sometimes yelling at) your kids to hurry, only to get to church (frazzled) and look over at children with bed-head or mismatched clothes? If not, kudos to you. But I saw in what she was saying an invitation to give my best to the Lord, and to teach my children that NOTHING else matters more than our relationship with Him.

Immediately after talking about honoring sacred covenants and ordinances, Sister Beck talked about pointing our children to the temple. Would we go wrinkly and messy-haired to the temple? Probably not. (If we do, we probably shouldn't.) But is all this shallow stuff about appearances? No, I believe it's about heart. It's about respect. It's about a spirit of sacrifice and humility. Doesn't the Lord deserve our best efforts? Our best clothes? Our best teaching? Our best example?

This isn't about fodder for criticizing others, either. I'm grateful for kind ward members who understand that mornings are hard for me. But even so, can't I do a little better? Of course I can. And I should do it because I care about doing my best for God and teaching my children that the firstfruits of my life should be God's -- not because I care about what others think of me or my kids, but because I care about giving my best to the Lord...not because He needs it but because I do.

So there are some specific thoughts. I also just wanted to note all of the things that she mentioned that can help create a home that can foster spiritual and temporal growth. Since I'm a visual person, I like to SEE all that she said, to see all the meat that was in her talk.

- Know God, know who we are, make and honor covenants
- Welcome children into our home - it's a commandment that is 'still in force'! (Too many cultures have devalued children. MANY of our leaders have talked about this. As Latter-day Saints, we believe in having children, and that family goals come first.)
- We place value on motherhood and strive to develop the traits of divine motherhood. (That was in my words, but think of that.)
- Point children to the temple.
- Prepare children for missions (have a home as a pre-MTC).
- Help them plan for their ETERNAL FUTURE.
- Teach by example.
- Use our skills and knowledge toward our eternal goals.
- Foster an environment of organization (disorganization is a distraction and an energy drain...ask me, I know!), patience, love and work.
- Work beside children, teach and model qualities that we want our children to emulate (I would add that they will NEED to face the future).
- Work as equal partners in this 'great and eternal organization' -- the family!
- Realize that we are never off-duty. We are teachers, not merely babysitters. (The thought I had is that I should be spent at the end of a day like I was on my mission -- because there I gave ALL I had to that role. I sometimes don't do that as a mom. I hear her inviting me to give more of my heart to this role. As I do, I believe I will be giving more of my heart to the Lord.)
- Help our children prepare to be the future fathers and mothers and church leaders for the next generation; teach them to follow the Lord's pattern, not worldly patterns and social pressures. Teach them to be leaders by being leaders ourselves. (This implies the importance of being spiritually and temporally grounded ourselves.)
- Family home evening, family prayer, family scripture study, meal times are all times when we can teach. (We should be constantly teaching! This reminds of another then-Elder Eyring quote:
We have the greatest opportunity with the young. The best time to teach is early, while children are still immune to the temptations of their mortal enemy, and long before the words of truth may be harder for them to hear in the noise of their personal struggles.
A wise parent would never miss a chance to gather children together to learn of the doctrine of Jesus Christ. Such moments are so rare in comparison with the efforts of the enemy. For every hour the power of doctrine is introduced into a child’s life, there may be hundreds of hours of messages and images denying or ignoring the saving truths.
The question should not be whether we are too tired to prepare to teach doctrine or whether it wouldn’t be better to draw a child closer by just having fun or whether the child isn’t beginning to think that we preach too much. The question must be, “With so little time and so few opportunities, what words of doctrine from me will fortify them against the attacks on their faith which are sure to come?” The words you speak today may be the ones they remember. And today will soon be gone.

- Do less; focus on what will bear fruit eternally and reduce that which will not (this includes less media, less distraction, less activities that pull children out of the home)
- Live on less and consume less. (This isn't a save-the-environment plea, although that is a side benefit) -- this was direction given to spend more time with our children.
- We should spend more time eating together, working together, talking, laughing, singing, reading.
- Choose carefully what to do -- don't try to do it all. (Can't remember if she said this here or in the RS broadcast, but we should make sure that we are conserving our energy to focus on the things that matter eternally.)
- We should excel as members of the Church in upholding, nourishing and protecting families. She expresses her confidence that we will rise to this challenge!

There is SO much there!


  1. m&m: I think you really got it just right. sorry to hear about your illness. I had no idea. I wish you the best.

    BTW, your Sunday morning sounds exactly like mine, and I like how you put the idea of remedying this.

    Going to our meetings in the right spirit requires preparation. Like if we had to travel across town and change buses several times. It's a lot to focus on but it's good counsel that will really help.

  2. I think that was a not-too-feminine looking woman helping the kids withe dishes.

  3. Ah, well, I still don't think she was suggesting that a woman has to be the one to do it all. :)