Sunday, August 30, 2020

 What does it mean to be “Pro-Life”? What does it cost?


Many of my conservative friends, when asked why they continue to support a man who has shown a lack of respect for the constitution, for states’ rights, for people of color, for immigrants, for women, for the objectivity of a free and fact-checked press, for science, for the working class, and for anyone who disagrees with him, cite their strong beliefs about the sanctity of life—in particular, the life of the unborn.


I understand these beliefs. I share them. For me, the fact that we can’t know for sure at what point an embryo becomes a living soul (or, for those like me who believe in a separate spirit that enters the body, at what point that spirit enters the body of the unborn child), means that we should work as hard as we can to avoid the need to terminate a pregnancy, especially in a country in which there are so many stable and healthy homes that would be eager to adopt a newborn and give it a life free of abuse and poverty. (One of the ways we might work hard to avoid this need would be to advocate for greater access to sex education and birth control, but that’s another topic.) I understand the moral conflict that many people feel at the thought of voting in any way that seems like it might lead to more death for the unborn.


Those who are against abortion, or at least against abortion as a way of dealing with unwanted pregnancies, have called their cause “Pro-Life,” meaning that they are committed to working hard to protect the lives of the unborn. This is a good cause—a moral cause. It’s important, though, that we not become lazy in our morality. If we truly do value life, we have a moral obligation to examine all the issues and candidates, in all of their complexities, to assess which policies really are “pro-life,” and not just abdicate this responsibility by voting knee-jerk for whichever candidate claims to be pro-life. For one thing, a candidate’s stated position does not always reflect his or her heart. (I have a hard time believing, for example, that a man who thinks nothing of having numerous extra-marital affairs and bragging about his abuse of women is truly and deeply against abortion for moral reasons.) But more importantly and much more dangerously for our society, it’s possible for a person in a position of power to be “anti-life” in many immoral and costly ways while earning political benefits because of his or her stance on abortion.


In this election, please take the time to consider: is this candidate really “pro-life”? Or is it possible that he or she is trying to buy your conservative vote by standing against abortion? Does this candidate claim to want to protect lives, but in reality focus only on the lives of the unborn? What about other lives--does he or she act in a way to protect the lives of babies on the outside of the womb, particularly those born in poverty? What about protecting older lives that are in danger because they were born Black or to immigrant parents? Does he or she wish to protect the lives of women—and by this, I mean quality of life as well? How about the handicapped? Do his or her policies provide for access to healthcare for those who earn only minimum wage? How about protecting the social security income of the elderly? Does he or she work for unity—within the country, within communities, and even in the world—or does he or she inflame prejudices and advocate enmity?


Our willingness to be lazy in our analysis of which policies really do reflect a respect for life—all kinds of life—in favor of voting only on a single issue allows some politicians to, in essence, buy our votes. If a person—let’s say Donald Trump, for instance—can claim to be against abortion, is he guaranteeing himself the right to trample on many other kinds of lives because of the reliability of single-issue voters? Are we letting ourselves be bought?


The abortion issue is complicated, and in a country that prides itself on its preservation of religious freedom, it is not likely that we will ever achieve consensus on it. In the face of this fact, let’s do what we can to preserve as much life as possible. If you feel called to work for more “life” in the world, take the time to educate yourself on each candidate and issue. Don’t let your vote be bought by easy labels that don’t always tell the truth about a candidate’s values.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Why women cry when they get a bad haircut or color

Surviving a Bad Haircut - FAST Hair Growth Shampoo & Conditioner


Recipe for stress: Take a young soul, a soul brand-new to the world, and tell her that the most important work she’ll ever do—in fact, her prime reason for coming into the world—begins with her ability to get another person to fall in love with her. Then watch as she learns to manage her body--something she has not much control over--her shape, her hair, her skin. Watch as she practices and fails at, or gets very good at, flirting. The tease, the advertisements, the come-hither. The thing is, she will probably succeed to some extent (though she might not). Regardless, she’ll see the results as her own doing: if she failed, she is a failure. If she succeeded, but if things fall apart later or she realizes she succeeded at the wrong goal, that will be her fault, too. Or it will be difficult to tell to what extent it was her fault. Meanwhile, the habit of valuing herself according to her body will be ingrained in her for her entire life. Even if she succeeds in separating herself from the opinions of her husband and others around her, she cannot separate her self-concept from her sense of her own body (weight, hair, skin). She will then watch what happens to her body through and after childbirth, middle age, menopause, old age with an increasing sense of waning power in the world. It takes much training to counteract this. 


So I cry when I hate my latest haircut/color. And I can’t even be just sad about it, because there’s also the guilt: why not cry about a real problem, you shallow woman? All this about your appearance?

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Reopening school?

School Desks


Last time I talked about that scripture that I depend on, which I always reverse in my mind: “I don’t know the meaning of all things, but I know God loves his children” (also paraphrased)—from Nephi. I think about this when it comes time to make Hard Decisions to which there is no obvious right or wrong answer. That is: what is the most loving thing to do?


So on this question of school reopening, I find myself pondering this. What is the most loving thing to do? The thing that makes this decision so hard is that all choices are loving to SOMEONE and less loving to others. We have to consider the physical health of teachers, students, and the vulnerable relatives of teachers and students. But we also have to consider the health of the economy (people need to get back to work and so might see school as necessary childcare). And, not unimportant, the emotional (and sometimes physical) health of students who might fall behind if left to do homeschool on their own, and students who might be being abused or neglected at home, as well as students who might experience anxiety in the masked-and-distanced environment at school.


So . . . what’s the most loving solution?


I don’t know. But I had an idea this morning:


What if we kept the schools “closed,” but opened some areas in each school for students to do their on-line school away from home? It would be staffed differently than regular school—with tutors and fewer teachers, so that most teachers would be free to spend their precious time on designing and delivering their on-line curriculum. But it would allow some students to be away from home. There could be separate areas—one for kids who just need space and resources to complete the regular on-line curriculum. And some smaller areas (one per grade?) in which the students who really need to be taught live for various reasons could be taught that way.

I know there are all sorts of problems with this idea. Who gets to decide who comes to the school? Would the school be open for the entire hours it usually is—and, if so, what do you do with bored students who get done with their on-line work early? I know it’s a mess. But aren’t all the ideas messy?

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Politics, Just in General

I hate that I am such a cynic about politics. The thing is, the thought of leading is so distasteful to me that I am suspicious of anyone who wants to. And yet, I know that God gives gifts to people, and sometimes the gift is leadership. There are good leaders in the world. My bishop is one of them. At the first ward council he conducted, he said to us, “You were called to your leadership positions because God knew you could do good there. My job is to support you. Please ponder your stewardship and, at our first one-on-one meeting together, come with some ideas of what you’d like to accomplish and how I can help you best to do that.” I was amazed at his concept of leadership-as-servant.


But things get convoluted when you try to translate that concept to leadership in the political sphere. Is a man or woman of integrity supposed to figure out what his/her constituents (or the party that helped them get elected) want and then fulfil that at all costs? Or is s/he supposed to assume that those constituents trust him/her to study issues and then vote by wisdom and conscience?


I am glad that I don’t have to lead. I am grateful for the honest of heart who are willing to do so. What can I do to make it easier for the honest of heart to run for office, and then to fulfill their assignments? I’m not sure. For one thing, I can write to tell them thank you when I see them standing up bravely for something moral when it is unpopular. And maybe I can notice when people around me (such as my bishop) display traits of righteous leadership. I can help my children recognize the examples in the Book of Mormon of righteous and unrighteous leadership (power hunger vs. service, for example). I can recognize that issues are always much more complicated than the sound bites we hear make them seem.


Another thing that I have become a cynic about: whether people actually can and do change their minds when it comes to politics. I began thinking about this more seriously when an acquaintance whose political leanings I do not share posted something on facebook about media bias. I realized that both he and I were convinced that the other person was not getting an objective view about the world from the news sources we relied on, and that both of us felt that our own preferences of news outlets were closer to objective truth than the other’s. I did some research on media bias and found some websites that I felt were helpful—but I realized that my friend would never believe that the websites I had found; he would say that those websites themselves were also biased. I wondered what info I could possibly use to change his mind—and from what source. Then I wondered what info he could show me that would change my mind, and from what source. The point is that we both had people, or sources, we trusted, and if those sources were to tell us they had been wrong on something, we’d consider it, but not if someone from outside our network of trust did so. What is the solution to this?


Easy seminary answer: the Holy Ghost. But both of us are sure that we are using that. What else?


I don’t know. I keep coming back to Nephi: “I do not know the meaning of all things, but I know that God loves his children.” I’ve paraphrased and reversed the order of that sentence--because it works best for me in that order. When I can’t get to pure knowledge of the world, I can at least rely on God’s love. For me. For my friend with whom I so disagree. For the politicians I think are damaging the world. For the people who pay the price of their power-hunger and immorality.


Meanwhile, politically, I try to vote for the most loving thing for the most people. Some would say that this is unwise, because it lets some people off easy, or leads to freeloaders or people who get away with things. I say that, in the absence of objective truth, in the presence of constant misinformation, erroneous black-and-white thinking, and oversimplification of complicated problems, I’d rather err on the side of mercy. I’d rather risk giving too much than too little, even to people who are ungrateful or unwise. I’d rather give people the benefit of the doubt, even if it leads to waste, than refuse to help the poor, the sick and the afflicted, as I believe I and all Christians have covenanted to do. I don’t know much, but I believe God loves his children, and expects us to, too.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

God's Still Driving This Car

Yesterday I had to take off some earrings I had been wearing for most of the day because of irritation. I said to Roger, who bought them for me, "These must have nickel in them."

"They don't!" he said. "I researched them! I know not to get you that kind!"

I shrugged. "All I know is that they hurt, so they're going to D.I."

Later, he came to me and said, "I did some research on the site I bought the earrings from. Turns out you're right. They DO have a little nickel in them--a 'negligible' amount. I saw the word hypo-allergenic and figured they were OK without reading to the details. But you could tell."

Now, as I'm still recovering from the surgery, I am again thankful to God for arranging my life in better ways than I could. I was scheduled for the repair surgery with a device years ago, and everything fell through because my insurance refused to pay. That was a disappointment. Then, a couple of weeks ago when I went for the stitch surgery, I arranged to have an official nickel test beforehand because I had heard that sometimes the surgeon discovered, during the procedure, that a patient's hole was too big for stitch repair and required a device. There are currently no 100% nickel-free devices available (though the manufacturers claim that the amount is "negligible"). Because of various factors (including an allergist's failure to explain things to me), the nickel test I had done was inconclusive because it was read too early. (It was read after only 48 hours, but the doctor reading it--not the one who ordered it--claimed that it needed "up to a week" to be accurate.) But the early reading showed no irritation, so on the day of the surgery we decided to go ahead with the device if necessary.

Thankfully (and I mean that word very literally--I am so thankful), it was not. So my experience with the earrings yesterday made me thankful again. I have heard horror stories of the problems some nickel-sensitive people have had with the device (culminating, once they figure out that it is the source of the strange symptoms, with open-heart surgery to remove it).

I want to remember this. I want to remember during disappointments and misunderstandings and normal daily bruising that God is really in charge. Trust, trust, trust.

I find myself trying to apply this to what's going on in the country/world right now. I don't ever want to claim that God wishes for our suffering or actively brings it about. There are some hard, hard things going on that are simply tragic. But I've found that when I bring the camera in from long-shot to close-up, I see God working in people's lives. I see a lot of families getting closer to each other during this time, experiencing spiritual growth as they do church together. I see people making changes that should have happened earlier (leaving a job they hated, for example). I see communities pulling together as they help each other, or working hard to speak up against society wrongs that have been going on too long under the radar. In the worst scenarios (death and disease, domestic abuse), I find that I can hold two things in my mind at once: pain and faith. I can feel the tragedy and mourn it, but I can also believe that somehow God is reaching for people, still, and waiting for us to reach for Him.

I don't want to sugarcoat things or wear my faith like a gaudy designer dress in front of people who are in deep distress. But I have not lost hope, and just because this time has been easier for me than many, I don't believe in a God who wants me to. But He wants my hope to motivate me to action (which is the definition of faith, I think). I'm not sure what action, though. For now, what I can think of is speaking truth and bearing testimony. Listening to other people's stories without judgment. Donating what I can. Being braver and more honest in my political actions. What can you think of?

Monday, July 20, 2020

Empty Nest

I love when you see a whole family of Gambel Quail run across the ...

This summer we’ve enjoyed watching a little family of quail that have taken up residence under the bushes in our back yard. I see quail families regularly when I take my morning walk along the canal, and usually there are 4-7 young. Perhaps this family, in our yard, used to have more, but now they have only two chicks.
As of yesterday, make that one.
If you’ve ever watched quail parents, you’ve probably seen how they try to lead predators away from the nest or babies. They are fierce parents. Yesterday, the neighbor’s cat who prefers to hunt in our yard earned herself a lunch of baby quail.
It was hard work—the parents were fierce in their defense, flying at the cat, jumping and squawking around its face as if to say, “Take me instead! Don’t I look more rewarding? Look at all this fine flesh!” But, in the end, the cat got a baby. I tell myself that this is life; this is how the world works, and it’s best to train myself not to care.
What is the evolutionary purpose of the sadness we feel when we see an animal die? (Or is that evolutionary? Do those who live by hunting feel that sadness?)
I’ve been wondering about those bereft parents today. I imagine that after that battle their muscles are sore, and that small as their brains are, these parents are sad. One baby left.
I myself have only one baby left.
Sure, with this Coronavirus lifestyle, my house is busier than usual. I have two young adult sons who are home with us, doing their classes on-line. (Another is off in another state.) And the one who would be here alone with his parents if circumstances were different is enjoying the company of his brothers. It is a relief to us as his parents to have the other boys here for him to recreate with. They take regular breaks from their school and on-line jobs to go out and shoot hoops together. They have minecraft tournaments together. We all play card games and binge-watch together in the evenings. It has felt almost festive.
But I already feel the small sadness at the back of everything that comes from knowing that the empty nest is just over the horizon. We have one year left with my youngest. And I’ve already been through this enough to know that a senior year doesn’t count much—he won’t be home much at all, and even when he is, his thoughts will be elsewhere. That is life. That is evolutionary biology. He’s on his way out.
And yet the others were on their way out, but here they are. It’s not as if they leave my life forever . . . But of course it is. They are not mine anymore. They are guests. We all feel a little strange when I assign them chores. I feel as if they’ve done me a favor when they participate in an activity with me. Our roles have already switched (“When you coming home, Dad/Son?” “I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then”).
I don’t have anything profound to say about all this—just that I’m thinking about those quail parents. I hope they are able to raise that remaining chick. Even if they can’t, though, they’ll have another spring to try again, I suppose.
I’ll, too, have my own kind of spring. Already I am making lists of things I can do in the coming years (especially since I might be doing them with a strong heart? Maybe?). I have ideas. Learning a new language with Rog. Backpacking. More writing, of course. Getting the house updated.
And, like the glow behind the mountains before sunrise, there is the tiny and growing idea of grandbabies.
I’m going to be OK.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Glad To Be Back!

Hello, there! Does anyone read any blogs anymore? I don’t imagine they do. But I’ve been re-reading my old journals and blog entries lately, and I’ve realized a few things:

1) As I have discovered in other ways (particulary, by doing NaNoWriMo and MoPoWriMo), a regular casual writing goal/routine (by which I mean “not with the intent to publish formally or to work into anything that will be published, but just for the joy and habit of writing”) leads to more creativity and generativity in my formal writing. When I am writing more, I get more ideas. Writing generates writing.

2) At the risk of cutting against or contradicting the spirit of #1 above, many of the things I worked through in blog posts ended up as poems or essays later. I didn’t consciously draw from by blog posts when it was time to sit down and generate formally, but something about having thought through and written about those ideas years before made some of them stick with me so that I was able to bring them up in my mind later.

3) I continue to suspect (as did/do some of my poetry professors) that I am an essayist in a poet’s body. My essays, of which I’ve actually finished and polished very few for publication, have done much better in the world than my poetry, in terms of critical acceptance. I have published maybe 4 or 5 actual finished essays. One of them was nominated for a Pushcart. One of them was mentioned as Notable in a Best American anthology. Two of them won or placed highly in contests. Would that my poetry had those kind of percentages! So I’m curious what would happen if I dedicated some time to actual study of the genre, both in reading and writing it. I wish, even, that I could go back and get another MFA in CNF, just so I could have the experience of making it a real, formal study.

In light of these realizations, I’d like to return to blogging as a present to myself. For now, I’m going to set a goal of posting here once a week at a minimum. As I look around here, I see that I had some great interactions with the readers of my blog. What a cool community it was! I miss that. I’m not sure that I could get this back, since no one reads blogs anymore and I’m not even sure anyone would ever notice that I was blogging still. But maybe I could gather some readers if I linked through facebook and twitter and instagram. I’ll think about this after I’ve generated a few posts here.

In the meantime, here’s a report of what my life looks like these days in terms of the themes that my blog USED to focus on:

1) My Kids are Old.
During the golden days of this blog, I was in the midst of the storm of child-raising. I was, thankfully, past the hardest stage (toddlers and babies), and finally getting my head above water a little. But my life centered around my children’s adventures, triumphs and struggles in a more moment-intensive way than it does now. I wouldn’t say for a second that my children’s triumphs and struggles are any less heavy in my life. I’ve got three young adults (two returned missionaries, one current missionary) and a teenager (senior in high school), and, as you know if you’re there yet, the problems just get bigger along with the kids. But that’s not to say that I feel more burdened. In fact, this has been a phase of great enjoyment for me. I’m interested in exploring some of that here.

2) I Am Old.
So, if my kids are old, that makes me . . . older. Yes, I am very much in Middle Age. More specifically, I just turned 50. There’s no more even pretending that I am on the young side of anything.

I don’t think I’ve hidden the fact here or anywhere in my life that I have always feared dying young. My mother died at 43 and her mother died at 34, so I don’t think that my fear is all that unreasonable. And so I’m a little surprised to be here at 50. But I think that maybe most people find it surprising to discover that they are grown-ups, and then middle-aged, and then elderly. It’s just hard to imagine in general.

I have to say, though, that reaching 50 has been a completely positive thing for me. First of all, consider the alternative: not making it to 50 isn’t something to rejoice about. Second, I absolutely claim all that I have learned and enjoyed about my 50 years on earth. Third, when I was at my sickest, I made a plea to God to allow me to live long enough to raise my children. I feel that I’ve made it to that point. Peter is almost on his mission, and the others are proving that they can handle adulthood. They really don’t need me anymore. That’s not to say that I don’t look forward to much more time with them (and, hopefully, grandkids!). But I really do deeply feel like anything from here on out is cream. I’ve had my fair turn on this earth and done all I really worried about not being able to do.

And being 50 is freeing. No one is going to be fooled anymore that I am young. I’m feeling braver and braver, then, about giving up the effort to hide my age. In fact, I had always planned to let myself go gray once my last child was home from his mission, but this COVID quarantine stuff has led me to consider going gray now. Here’s the progress so far.

I’m reserving the option to dye again once I have to head back to school in the fall, but hoping I won’t. I love the idea of being free of the bondage of the bottle. More than that, I love the idea of helping show the world that women shouldn’t be afraid to look their age. I dream of world in which women are valued for much more than how they look. I should put my money where my mouth is.

3) My Health.
There’s been a new, major development, which I’ll get to in a minute. Outside of that, I’ve been doing generally pretty well overall. I still struggle with fatigue and may for the rest of my life. I sometimes have harder times—I suspect I just get recurring mono, among other issues. But I have reached a point of acceptance and peace about my health burdens. I am remarkably blessed in that I can do all I need to do and most of what I want to do.

I am excited to report that I was able to lose 20 pounds last winter using Noom, and now weigh my lowest since before I had kids. So that feels good.

The big development is that I finally had surgery to repair my heart! I have been trying to get this surgery for years. You can read about the original discovery that I had a hole in my heart here. Since all that, something really exciting happened: a doctor in Europe invented a new way of repairing PFO that does not involve a device. Instead, a stitch is used to close the hole. This is much better than a device for many reasons, but the biggest reason in my mind is that I have nickel sensitivity, and the device has a little bit of nickel in it—enough that some people have had reactions and subsequently have required removal of the device via open-heart surgery. So I have spent a few years trying to get insurance companies to recognize that PFO repair is a good thing and that this new way of doing it is the best way. After lots of effort, things finally came together and I had the repair with the stitch just last week. I am still in recovery and so can’t tell if there’s a difference, but I look forward to finding out. (And, in the meantime, I have reduced my risk of stroke, so that’s a good thing.)

Here I am with the surgeon, Dr. Jim Thompson, who practices in Virginia:

4) My Writing
I see that a lot of my blog entries from the good ol’ days were about my concerns as a writer. Was I a writer? Should I invest in myself as a writer? How? And in what genre?

It was my dream to return to school for an MFA and, eventually, I did! I wrote about my first attempt here, and then about my experience in the program here and here. But here are some post-program thoughts:

a) It was absolutely the right thing for me to do. One of the biggest reasons is that it gave me an MFA so that I could teach on the college level, something I’ve been doing ever since and which I am passionate about. I love teaching even more than I love writing, and I am good at it. Another big reason is that it did help me improve—or, at least, it taught me the path by which I could improve. I learned how to push myself. I learned what and how to read. I learned about individual aesthetics and a little of the big philosphical questions behind poetic craft and aesthetics.

b) Although I am supremely grateful that the professors admitted me to the program, I see, in retrospect, the benefits of professors ONLY admitting students whose work they are interested in. For most of my time in the program, I was convinced that no professors were interested in my work—that they had admitted me sort of grudgingly. I won’t get into the reasons that I believed this here, but this belief handicapped my progress. It wasn’t until after I was done and I went to a retreat where I found people who were truly interested in my work that I began to grow. Once I felt that interest—and it was interest in the work I’d done that I felt was closest to my heart—I decided to return to the things that truly interested me, and when I did, my work blossomed. I wrote tons more LDS stuff, but not all of it was LDS, and because I was writing so much more and with more joy, even the non-LDS stuff was a lot better than it had been before. I wonder, then, what would have happened if I had felt this excitement during the first few months of my program. I think I would have grown a lot more and a lot faster. Again, though, I am so glad they accepted me ANYWAY, because that MFA is so precious to me and has truly helped me.

As a result of that blossoming, I was able to produce enough work that I could put together a manuscript, and my book, Homespun and Angel Feathers, was published by BCC Press last spring. I am so grateful to BCC for their interest in my work (in fact, Steve Evans at BCC contacted me about the manuscript when he saw my facebook announcement that I was working on it). I am pleased with the book and its reception. And this spring the book won the AML award for poetry. If you know me at all, you know what that award meant to me. You can read the award citation here.

I was thrilled to be able to read from my book at BYU’s English Reading Series earlier this year. I also got to go to the meeting of the Mormon Arts Foundation in Dallas to present about poetry and faith along with Susan Elizabeth Howe. Here we are:

I’ve got almost enough work to make a second collection already, and I’ll finish that up in the next few months, but I think I’d like to take some time on essaying in the near future as well.

5) Crazy Sauce
OK, so that’s the report on my life. The other big things I might mention you’ve been experiencing, too: Trump. A pandemic. Protests about racial injustice. I don’t really want to get political here—at least not today, and not at the end of a long post. But let me just say that in addition to all the stresses of this time, my time with my children at home as we’ve been socially distancing has been very sweet. I love home church. I haven’t been missing the auxiliary church activities and all of the other things that usually take my boys and husband away from home. I realize, though, that this is not healthy for long-term. We need a church community—we need to see, and serve, each other regulalry. My boys need a chance to date and mix socially so that they can move on to the next stage of their lives. And, of course, many people have been devastated by this, physically or economically or both. So of course I have been praying that this burden can be lifted from the earth. But I am grateful for the sweet memories I will have of this time.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Ephesians 5:22

“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:22)

This verse came up in our “Come Follow Me” discussion this morning, of course, since it was in the reading. I have always had no problem with the concept of church leaders giving their own opinions of things (which are influenced by the cultures they live in). Sometimes the church leaders are also the authors of scripture, but I don’t think that just because Paul’s letter was collected and included in the bundle of documents that became the King James Version means that everything he says is the opinion and doctrine of God. We talked together about the fact that there are many Christian sects that do believe every word of the bible to be the word of God, and that they see it as a precarious practice to delve into issues of culture in the interpretation of what God wants us to do with the opinions of the writers of, and speakers within, scripture. This can look to others as “picking and choosing,” and that can lead to dangerous results.

Which is why we need living prophets and personal revelation, of course.

So we got on the subject of living prophets. I told my sixteen-year-old about how I have seen, in my lifetime, an effort by General Authorities in General Conference to begin to steer the church culture away from the model of the dominating patriarch within the family. There was a period of years when I was a young wife when I would ask my husband each time he came home from the priesthood session of General Conference, “Were there any ‘wife talks’?” Because there almost always was at least one talk to the men asking them to be less dominating (or abusive) and more nurturing of their wives, encouraging them to see and treat their wives as equal. I know that there are many who like to point out the ways our rhetoric could still improve in this area, but I think it’s important to acknowledge the progress we’ve made. I asked my son at the beginning of this conversation how he knows that God doesn’t really expect wives to “submit” to their husbands any more than husbands should submit to their wives (in a relationship of caring and charity), and he talked about what he sees in the families at church (“by their fruits”). I think it’s great that it hadn’t really occurred to him that God would actually mean that men should dominate. Things ARE changing.

I was thinking about President Hinckley, who is one of the people I attribute this cultural change to, and what comes to mind is the feisty personality of his wife. I think there is absolutely a connection between these things. I think President Hinckley was the man he was, and able to do what he did, in part because his wife was who SHE was. I think he listened to her, and this enabled him to seek and/or receive the revelations he did about guiding the church to do better in this area. I think also about the first time I heard Elder Uchtdorf (President Uchtdorf at the time) speak to the women in Women’s Conference, and how I came home and told my husband, “He must have an articulate, thoughtful wife” because I could tell, from the way he spoke to women, that he understood the kinds of things we struggle with.

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As I ponder the connection I believe exists between our male leaders who have helped our culture evolve in terms of the treatment of and rhetoric around women, I think of how President Nelson has made an obvious effort to include his own wife in his talks. He refers to her often, using “we” much more regularly than I’ve heard before, and invites her to speak along with him more often than we’ve seen a prophet do before. She also is a strong woman, obviously, but I want to give him kudos for respecting, including—even using—her. I believe that he is changing the culture, and hope, excitedly, that he is setting a precedent and that prophets’ wives will become more visible as a new tradition.

We live in exciting times. I know that many wish that the progress would come faster, but it is coming. Let’s take time to recognize and rejoice in it.