Brenning Family Christmas 2017

Dear Family and Friends,

The Brenning family wishes you a most wonderful, happy Christmas! We have enjoyed our first full year and half here in New Mexico. We love it! We adopted a new kitty named Tom and we love him. We have made some new, incredible friends. We will have attended two family reunions this year– one in Utah with Kurt’s family and one in Arizona with Julie’s family. We also attended the awesome balloon fiesta with Kurt’s family in October.

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Kurt is working hard at Sandia National Laboratories as a security hardware engineer. He is enjoying working on many projects. This year Kurt spent time in the ER being very sick (and having a slow recovery), biking to and from work, hiking with Julie in the Jemez as a Ma and Pa on Trek, making new friends, teaching and playing with Daniel and Kathleen, and creating an awesome backyard.

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Julie is very busy taking care of a 4.5 year old and almost 3 year old! Julie continues her work at Give Her Life (GHL) and her paper on India and the sex ratio imbalance was accepted for publication and will hopefully come out in print in 2018. She was invited to become an associate of the WomanStats Project and presented her research at a conference at BYU. Julie has been very busy serving as 1st Counselor in the Young Women’s organization, enjoying watching the young women progress. She has made some incredible friends and started her own little company doing research consulting.

DSC_0156.JPG Daniel Ford turned 4 years old in June and celebrated with a Lightning McQueen party. Daniel began Preschool in the fall and his favorite thing to do is pretend camping on the playground. He loves to play with cars, go to Indigo gym, play with his little sister and chase Tom the cat around the house. We love his big smiles, high energy and enthusiasm for life.1.JPG
Kathleen Muriel will be 3 years old this March! She loves the water – playing in it, swimming in it, causing mischief in it! She loves to sing, dance and talk all day. She enjoys nursery and playing at the park. We love her determination, kindness and spunky attitude.

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We want to wish each of you a very Merry Christmas. We have faced many new challenges this year as individuals and as a family. We are so grateful for the love and support of our family and friends. We are continually blessed in our journey by the Savior and His infinite Atonement.

Love,
The Brenning Family
Julie, Kurt, Daniel and Kathleen (and Tom the cat)

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Let Your Husband Be a Man [of Christ]

I recently saw this article, Let Your Husband Be a Man, going around, giving marriage advice. The premise was how a wife should/should not treat her husband, but allow him to “be a man.” The author presented a “Christian” based perspective, a perspective I’ve seen prevalent amongst many denominations. Instead of shredding apart every point, I’d like to present the Mormon version of “Let Your Husband Be A Man [of Christ].”

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She gives 7 pieces of advice that she claims will strengthen your marriage. I will quickly summarize her perspective and then give the LDS perspective based on modern-day revelation.

  1. Let him take charge
    There is a common thought amongst some Christians that men ought to lead the marriage. She explains, “Men have a natural desire to lead and take charge, but all too often their women…shoot down their ideas.” Her sentiment isn’t half-bad: wives should stop be overbearing and allow their husbands to make decisions. The real issue is how that decision is made.

    1. REVISED: Take charge together
    We know from modern revelation that a husband and wife are equal partners in marriage, full stop. Elder Scott (an Apostle) stated: “Is yours a culture where the husband exerts a domineering, authoritarian role, making all of the important decisions for the family? That pattern needs to be tempered so that both husband and wife act as equal partners, making decisions in unity for themselves and their family.” What would this look like in real life? For example, while making large purchases, the couple ought to express their views with respect, pray if needed, and jointly make a decision about the purchase. This is what I like to call “Equal Counseling;” it brings greater power and respect in marriage. This leads one to believe that both men and women have a natural desire to lead and take charge. It is only when they lead together that happiness for all is found.

  2. Trust his judgment.
    In this section, she states “as the head of the home” men will parent differently, discipline different and do things very differently from women. Wives ought not correct their husband in how they do things.

    2. REVISED: Trust God
    I believe there is plenty of room for spouses to improve upon not nagging or criticizing their spouse. The LDS give a better perspective on this topic though: Instead of putting full trust in a spouse, we are advised to put full trust in God. This naturally leads to love and kindness in marriage. Men and women are the “joint head of the home.” In their divine stewardships, there is to be love, respect, thoughtful feedback, and open communication. President Hinckley (a Prophet), stated, “God our Eternal Father ordained that men and women should be companions.  That implies equality . . . There is no basis in the gospel for inferiority or superiority between the husband and wife.”

  1. Treat him with respect
    The author gives pretty good advice on this point. She believes that spouses should avoid entitlement and treating each other with dirision. She concludes that respecting the husband is a commandment, “…The wife must respect her husband.” –Ephesians 5:333.

    3. REVISED: Treat each other with respect
    I agree with her assessment but would add that it is a commandment held under covenant for the Ladder-day Saints to respect each other. Women and men are both held under this observance. There is no room in the Restored Gospel for disrespect of spouse. President Hunter (a Prophet) stated:  “A man should always speak to his wife lovingly and kindly, treating her with the utmost respect.”Image result for marriage christ lds

 

  1. Appreciate his contributions and accomplishments.
    She explains that women need to praise their husbands often for their hard work. She says that “simple phrases melt most men into puddles.” She references Five Love Languages and that words of affirmation are essential for men.

    4. REVISED: Give each other daily praise
    I think all of her words on this section are fantastic! The only problem is that she makes it seem like only men and husbands need these words. But we know that men and women both need kind words. President Hunter (a Prophet), stated: “A man should always speak to his wife   lovingly and kindly, treating her with the utmost respect.”

  2. Give him time to pursue his interests.
    “God made men to explore, conquer, and discover… He needs time to hunt, fish, climb, camp, watch sports with guys, or maybe … kill the bad guys in his video game.” I think you get the feel for this section.

    5. REVISED: Give him time to fulfill his priesthood responsibilities and develop his Divine gifts.
    I completely agree that we should allow our spouse the space and time to pursue their gifts and interests! I think the difference that the LDS bring forward is that we believe both men and women were designed to “explore, conquer, and discover.” We have also been given guidance about what we should spend our time doing. Elder Ballard (an Apostle) stated:  “One of the ways Satan … weakens your spiritual strength is by encouraging you to spend large blocks of your time doing things that matter very little. I speak of such things as sitting for hours on end watching television or videos, playing video games night in and night out, [or] surfing the Internet.”
    Instead, the LDS choose to sustain men in their priesthood responsibilities, such as visiting the sick and hungry. Wives also encourage their husbands to develop their spiritual gifts (which are not gendered); these gifts can span from camping to singing to quilting.

  3. Let him be the hero and delight in being his leading lady.
    Just the title makes me cringe. “He wants to be your hero … needed by you… let yourself need your husband just the way God intended.”

    6. REVISED: Let Christ be your hero
    The LDS do not believe that women ought to let “themselves need their husband the way God intended”. Yes, we believe that to live with God again, we need to be married in the new and everlasting covenant of eternal marriage. But the counsel is not to need your spouse as a princess needs saving from a prince, but rather to need the Savior as our hero. LDS.org states: “Spouses should exercise faith in Christ and love for each other to heal and strengthen their relationship.” When Christ becomes the hero in our marriage, husbands do not need to rescue their wife (or vise versa). The power of Christs Atonement is what saves marriages, not a man (or a woman!).

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  1. Believe in him
    “He is wired to have big dreams and big goals. If he doesn’t, he’s been so squashed by life and people, he’s become complacent. … When he fails, and sometimes he will, he needs you to be waiting in the wings so proud of your warrior you could just explode.”

    7. REVISED: Believe in Christ
    My husband had his biggest reaction to this section: “I don’t have big dreams or big goals at all. My only dream is to love my family. What she states is an insult to all men.” The LDS believe both men and women have big dreams, and they differ person to person. Elder Pingree Jr., stated, “Brothers and sisters, God has important work for each of us.  …These divine assignments are not reserved for a privileged few but are for all of us—regardless of gender, age, race, nationality, income level,    social status, or Church calling. Every one of us has a meaningful role to play in furthering God’s work.” Wives are certainly not to be “waiting in the wings,” but to be in the forefront of accomplishing all God has for her to do, setting big goals and big dreams, and doing so jointly with her husband.

In the LDS Church, we believe that for husbands to “be a man,” they are to learn of Christ and be like Him. Christ did not domineer. He did not feel women were “waiting in the wings.” He never taught that men were wired a certain way. He never taught that men were to save women. Elder Christofferson (an Apostle) in his talk, “Let Us Be Men,” stated, “In large measure, true manhood is defined in our relationship to women. … Most importantly, when we consider the admonition to be men, we must think of Jesus Christ.”

When LDS Church leaders ask for us to stand for marriage, we do so in unity with many of our diverse brothers and sisters across the world. But, let it be clear, that while we do stand for marriage between a man and a woman, we stand for a different type and quality of marriage. We believe this marriage can be eternal and godly. Elder Perry (an Apostle), stated emphatically:  “There is not a president and vice president in a family.  We have co-presidents working together eternally for the good of their family . . . They are on equal footing.  They plan and organize the affairs of the family jointly and unanimously as they move forward.”

Miscarriage: a Witness of Hope in God’s Eternal Plan

**A friend of mine just went through a difficult miscarriage, her first. I dedicate this post to her and all Mom’s and Dad’s who have ever had to deal with the pains of miscarriage.

Dear Friend,

I write you this message to give you great hope. I write to let you know that miscarriage is a part of God’s plan and a manifestation of God’s love. Your first reaction is probably not to feel hope or to feel love, but let me take you on a journey to search both hope in Christ and also the doctrine surrounding miscarriage.

I have experienced several heart-wrenching, tragic miscarriages. My husband and I still count the day we lost our first as the worst day of our lives. We wept, we mourned. We said we would never get pregnant again. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done.

And then I wondered.

I went to see my Bishop for counsel and wisdom. He had great sympathy for our loss, but said that doctrinally, there is very little known about miscarriage. He counseled me to go home and pray about the miscarriage and God would let me know. I felt a little piece of hope, but I went home and prayed and realized I didn’t know what I was praying about. Was the baby dead? Was it ever alive? Where was the baby’s spirit now? Was my pregnancy a waste? What was the purpose of such a terrible experience? My pregnancies are difficult… was my sacrifice for nothing?

I grappled with these questions for weeks. I prayed, I soul-searched, I read a lot of the words of Christ. I want to share with you the answers I received and the “options” I feel that are doctrinally sound (according to my personal search) in explaining miscarriage. Before I get into the possible explanations, the premise that a fetus, or baby within the womb, is alive needs to be established. We know from recent research1 that a baby has its own distinct genes, different from Mom and Dad, upon conception. It is truly its own separate, distinct person. We also know from LDS doctrine that a thing cannot be alive without a spirit to reside in its body. Therefore a baby in the womb is alive, or joint with a spirit, upon the heart beating (which begins beating one day after fertilization). I know there is great debate about this topic (even among LDS), but I think it is safe to assume that almost all LDS women have these same feelings about life. So, when a miscarriage occurs, the baby does indeed die, and there is a separation of the spirit from the body.

So, what happens to that spirit and why?

1. God desires all of His children to have a body in this life. In the Great War in Heaven, there was a great spiritual battle. One plan was God’s – that His children would come to earth, gain a body and hopefully choose Jesus Christ as their Savior. The other plan was Satan’s – that God’s children would be forced to Heaven and Satan would have all the glory. God’s plan won out and all the children who come to this earth have elected God’s plan. God makes sure they can have a body. We know from research2, that many miscarriages occur because of chromosomal defects, meaning that the body of that spirit would not live or develop well enough to live. A friend of mine worked in a lab where she received the remains of DNC’s and she explained that most of the time there was not even a formed baby from a miscarriage. Miscarriage is perhaps God’s way of making sure His children receive what they fought for in the pre-earth life: a body. As women, we are the instruments in God’s hands to make sure those spirits receive this gift.

pre-earth life2. The spirit of a miscarried child goes to Spirit Paradise. This is the most doctrinally sound explanation. From the Book of Mormon we know that when a body and spirit separate (or someone dies), the spirit is brought into what is called the Spirit World. We also know that anyone who dies before the age of 8, which is the age of accountability, goes straight to a part of the Spirit World known as Spirit Paradise.

In Alma it reads, “…the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow” (Alma 40:12).

Wilford Woodruf stated3:
“Hence the Lord takes many away even in infancy that they may escape the envy of man, the sorrows & evils of this present world & they were two pure & to lovly to live on Earth. Therefore if rightly considered we have, instead of morning we have reason to rejoice, as they are deliverd from evil & we shall soon have them again.”

You can rest assured knowing that your little one has completed his or her journey in this life, received its body, and is now waiting to see you again.
baby in heaven3. The spirit of a miscarried child will be raised by you in the Millennium. This idea comes from Joseph F. Smith (and a few others) who claimed they heard (or interpreted) the Prophet Joseph Smith to have said something about this. Here is a quote from Joseph F. Smith3:

“The idea that I got from what he [Joseph Smith] said was that the children would grow and develop in the Millennium, and that the mothers would have the pleasure of training and caring for them, which they had been deprived of in this life.”

And so although this is not established doctrine, this may still be an option for a child that was miscarried. It may be possible that this child will come back in a Resurrected body in the Millennium and be raised by his or her parents. This idea can bring a great deal of hope to many Mother’s.

4. The spirit of a miscarried child will return again into another body. I found the least doctrine to support this claim, but I also discovered the most personal conviction around this idea. After miscarrying, I spoke privately to many women in the Church who had also suffered from a miscarriage. The majority of these Mother’s had prayed and felt strongly that the same spirit would come back again in a different pregnancy to their family. I have actually personally felt this same way with one of my miscarriages. Perhaps it wasn’t the right time for that child, or perhaps the right body (refer to idea number 1). We wait upon further light and knowledge upon this very important topic that touches so many women’s lives.

Women’s Bodies are Sacred Instruments in God’s Plan
My dear friend, as women of God, we are instruments in His hands to bring about the immortality and eternal life of His children. Our bodies are chosen and pure vessels to bring these great spirits into this life. No pregnancy is a waste. No pregnancy is for nothing. The sacrifice of every pregnancy, every miscarriage and every tear shed does not go unnoticed and is not an accident. Every pregnancy has a purpose, and we carry these souls to bring about His great plan for each of these Divine spirits.

miscarriage quoteWhether that means that upon miscarriage they go to Heaven or are given a second chance, a miscarriage is part of God’s plan and we can feel true hope in Christ because of this knowledge. He has a plan for each child and the end result will be joy for us and that spirit. I have found profound peace in the midst of each of my miscarriages because I know I was doing the will of God and helping that child fulfill his or her own personal plan.

The Savior’s Atonement

I also take great comfort in the knowledge that there is One who understands perfectly the pain, sorrow and confusion of miscarriage. Although I consulted with several good friends and relatives who had also had a miscarriage, I never felt that anyone I spoke with truly understand exactly how I felt. But there is One, our Savior, who took upon Him not only our sins, but also every individual, personal pain that we have ever felt.

Elder Bednar, an Apostle of the Lord, explains beautifully:

“There is no physical pain, no spiritual wound, no anguish of soul or heartache, no infirmity or weakness you or I ever confront in mortality that the Savior did not experience first. In a moment of weakness we may cry out, “No one knows what it is like. No one understands.” But the Son of God perfectly knows and understands, for He has felt and borne our individual burdens. And because of His infinite and eternal sacrifice (see Alma 34:14), He has perfect empathy and can extend to us His arm of mercy. He can reach out, touch, succor, heal, and strengthen us to be more than we could ever be and help us to do that which we could never do relying only upon our own power. Indeed, His yoke is easy and His burden is light.”

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Jesus Christ is the only man who knows about pregnancy, its sacrifices and burdens; the only man who knows what it is like for you to lose a child in miscarriage. He knows you, He loves you, and He has a plan for you as His daughter and a plan for your family. This is why there is great hope in miscarriage. This is why miscarriage, for me, is only a witness of God’s love for His children. I feel it only as an honor as a daughter of God to be that chosen vessel, even if for a short time, to help one of His children along the path back home.

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My beautiful family Continue reading Miscarriage: a Witness of Hope in God’s Eternal Plan

The Analogy of the Piano: Ways the Elect are Being Deceived

Have you ever tried lifting a piano? They are heavy, thick and tricky to handle. To lift, you need several strong people, you need to coordinate the travel of the piano together, and you need to lift where you stand. President Dieter Uchtdorf, an Apostle of the Lord, compared this lifting up of a piano to the service of God we give in our families and local areas, united in the hastening of the work of salvation.

As Latter-day Saints, we love this talk.
We understand the visual and we feel a desire in our bosom to serve.

But do we get side-tracked and try to lift other pianos? Do we get so caught up in contention that we don’t even get to the actual lifting? The following are a few “pianos” that I see many LDS are trying to fruitlessly lift that represent deceptions of Satan.

I personally have struggled with several of these pianos myself, so I write this post not only as a record of my observations, but also as a way to keep myself accountable and seek wisdom in my personal repentance.

  1. The dusty, old piano

Old Piano

There are many who walk away from the piano before them and drift over into corners, seeking out dusty, old piano’s. The piano keys used to work graciously, but now the pianos main purpose is to remind us of beautiful music once played.

There are two groups of people who lift the musty, antique piano. The first group dwells in the past of Church history. They get caught up in some tale of Joseph Smith’s life; they get confused about polygamy and decide perhaps not all the Church is true because of what they perceive to be past mistakes or errors. They get caught up in the mountain meadows massacre, Joseph Smith looking into a hat to translate or supposed mistakes in the book of Abraham.

The other group venerates Church history and assumes events that happened in the past can be used as authority for present action. For example, there are many who cite events of Church history – such as women giving healing blessings – to justify current actions. Another example is looking at events from the past to predict those of the future. Some believe that the restoration was in its fullest at the time of Joseph Smith and that the Church needs to somehow come full circle, picking up the pieces that were left behind in the past.

There are countless examples, but all lead back to a fruitless attempt of lifting a piano that only falls apart when the legs lift from the ground. I’m not saying we should turn our back on the past. On the contrary, we should love our history and learn from it. In the Book of Mormon, there are literally hundreds of verses that exhort us to look to the past and “Remember, remember!” But the purpose of looking to the past is to build our faith to accomplish current, inspired action.

Some linger at this piano, trying to lift the old, forgotten instrument and others remain their permanently. But no matter how long they stay or their motive for being there, they have stepped away from the piano that is most important: the one in current time, that needs lifting now and needs playing now.

  1. The organ

Organ
The organ is a beautiful, majestic instrument. The music that swells from its large, shiny pipes is deep, powerful and poignant. The organ is an essential instrument in the grand music of the restored Gospel. But it is quite heavy.  Some of the smallest organs are several hundred lbs, while some of the largest are thousands of lbs. There are some LDS who are not concerned with the past, but very much consumed with the precepts of the here and now. They see the illustrious organ, leave behind the piano before them, and try with all their might to lift the heavy instrument.

This group has garnered a lot of media attention, discussion, debate and criticism. They seek to “tweak” or even grandly change the doctrines of the Church. Some are faithful, contrite, intelligent, educated, Latter-day Saints. In their hearts, they know that lifting the organ will be for the betterment of all. A few examples are the Ordain Women movement, those who believe the Church ought to become proponents of Gay Marriage, or other groups who believe that doctrine that “needs” changing. They argue that they are simply 20 years advanced from the leaders of the Church and that grass-roots voices are one inspired way to receive revelation for the whole membership of the Church.

Discussion, questions and seeking understanding of doctrine are not only welcomed, but encouraged by our Church leaders. The role of God is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man and he sets the conditions. The role of members is to listen to God via the living Prophet and keep the commandments. The pattern God has set forth if we have concerns with doctrine is humble prayer, sincere scripture study and meeting with a Bishop or Relief Society President.

Only the all powerful God can lift this essential instrument through his mouthpiece upon the earth – the Prophet, President Thomas S. Monson. Even when admonished to leave the organ as is – as the only lifting will be that of the hands of God – some stubbornly remain. Their backs hurt from the strain, their muscles are pulled, and they often give up all together, exhausted from the futile lifting.  They walk away from the Church or never stop trying to lift that dubiously heavy organ, forgetting entirely the piano before them that actually can be lifted.

  1. The bickering or apathetic piano

 Bickering Piano

 This is the correct piano. The one that can be lifted. It stands right before you. But this group of Saints is not lifting because they are either too preoccupied bickering about how to lift the piano or too consumed with other “priorities” in life. This piano is begging to be picked up but there is too much contention or apathy for any action to take place.

The first group looks like a lot of endless debates with endless blog posts and endless in-Ward bickering. Some seek popularity or trends while others seek to be right. Either way, the endless debates about modesty, how Church policy needs to be changed, or how the Bishop is doing a horrible job is leading this group away from actually lifting the piano.

The second group is “sleeping through the Restoration.” They are either too busy to help lift or too apathetic to care. This group believes that family time is more important than going to Church on Sunday, home teaching will happen next month and the stronger, more spiritual family next door will do the lifting anyways.

This piano is literally crying to be played and lifted. It has such significant needs that can be simply met. Satan will get us to do anything except which we are supposed to, even semi-related or peripheral LDS topics. When concerns arise about Church policy, culture, procedures or callings, then open up an honest dialogue with local leaders. Make the discussions meaningful and immediately applicable to your family or ward members. Those who insist on bickering or being apathetic may find a smashed up piano as it is unsuccessfully moved.

  1. The piano bench

Piano Bench

The piano bench is an assistant to the piano; a pianist sits upon the cushion to play the instrument. It is light, easy to lift, and is usually a simple, quant piece of furniture. But it doesn’t play a note of music. The group of piano-bench-lifters is hands-on – they want to serve, help and lift right where they stand. The only problem is that instead of lifting the piano with the help and direction of their leaders and others, they want to lift, not the piano, but the bench, and do it all by themselves. They pick up the wrong piece – the piano bench, or their own thoughts and ideas and then move it themselves, leaving behind the voices of Prophetic counsel. This is the piano bench of supposed “personal revelation.”

Anytime someone feels they have received personal revelation that goes against the counsel of their local leaders or the Prophet of God, they drop the piano where they stand and lift the piano bench, a solo act that brings no great reward. They are convinced that God, through personal revelation, has shown them a private way to become a better disciple, but it inconveniently goes perhaps a “little” against the counsel of God’s chosen servants.

It is a very rare occasion indeed where the Lord will be “divided” against his own house, meaning, it is a finding of a four-leaf clover event that the Lord would ever give a member of the Church personal revelation that is not in harmony with His teachings given by His chosen Servants. What if that actually does happen to you? If we ever receive personal revelation that goes against God’s commands or guidance, seek out a Bishop for counsel.

This group of people will pick up piano benches, follow those who are truly lifting the piano, but miss out on the blessings of moving the actual instrument. They may even pick up the bench and wander off, missing the goal of eternal life entirely.

  1. The brown, plain, average piano

regular piano

You have all seen this piano. It sits in the rooms of every chapel in the LDS Church or your own living room. It is brown, plain, upright, used, but still plays good, beautiful music. This piano represents the pokey, old local ward we live in. It is a symbol of our family, spouse, and children. It is a symbol of our neighbor’s right next door.

This is the piano God wants us to lift, and do it right now, right where we stand. Simply put, we need to “bloom where we you are planted” and lift where we stand. Jesus said to us all, “If ye love me, feed my sheep.”  In essence, Jesus is saying, “If ye love me, feed my sheep, right here, right now. Your family. Your neighborhood. Your ward.”

Are we too caught up in debates within our own Church to forget the perishing souls around us? Are we caught up in our own personal revelations to forget the needs of our family? Are we distracted by bickering or Church history? Are we spending our time in useless and even destructive practices? If so, now is the time to put down that old piano or that heavy organ, stop bickering and come to the piano that is right before you. Your family needs you. There are souls to be saved in your local neighborhood and ward. Come, as Jesus said, and feed His sheep.

Lift where you stand, that you and I be not deceived.

Ante-Partum Depression, Insomnia, and Anxiety: the Miracle of Creating Life

**I wrote this piece at probably the most difficult time of my pregnancy. I have decided to wait to share it until I was at a good place in my pregnancy. It was difficult to face and to write but if it even helps one pregnant woman in her struggles with this particular ailment, then it was worth opening up about a very personal journey.

I have Kurt. I have God. I have Daniel’s smiling face. And a really good maid service. Other than that, it’s just me and the messy house.

I hate being pregnant. For me, pregnancy is not some majestic, inspiring journey but rather one of the hardest, most difficult, anxious, dark times of my life. It’s not that I don’t believe pregnancy is part of a Divine inheritance and calling, but I find the process overwhelming and difficult. The reason I’m talking about depression, anxiety and insomnia during pregnancy is because NO ONE is talking about it. No one socially or medically has ever mentioned such a thing to exist, and no female figure in my life has warned me of such a thing.

It’s time to give this issue a voice.

Post-Partum depression and the emotional effects of having a baby are now widely spoken of; it’s not taboo to admit you are suffering from PPD and be ok with it and get help. This effort for transparency and education should be applauded.

But what about PRE-birth depression? Does that even exist? Ante-Partum Depression (ADP) is characterized by depression, particularly anxiety, during pregnancy. It is generally caused by a hormonal shift. According to one study performed in Italy (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22526826), about 4.7% of pregnant women have APD and 10% of pregnant women exhibit symptoms. This study also showed that there was an association of ADP with women who are cohabitating, housewives, and those who have past episodes of depression or use herbal drugs.

Obviously we speak of ‘morning’ sickness, we speak of discomfort, we speak of being tired (all of which I am also enjoying), but we rarely bring up the darkness that can occur during pregnancy. As I sit here and type, my 14-month old is getting into just about anything he wants (as long as it isn’t dangerous). My house is a wreck, I’ve had to cancel my participation in my academic endeavors (including work at my non-profit) for a time, I don’t want to talk to or see anyone, it’s 4pm and I haven’t taken a shower, and I am struggling to motivate myself to perform even the smallest Church service, let alone clean my own house. I recently relocated and I have not built up a support system of friends here.  I think the insomnia is the worst part – I need sleep to battle the hormonal shifts and nausea, but I can’t sleep because of those shifts.

Pregnancy, this creationary process of life, is a sacrifice.

There is some help that can be given. Medication can be used, but is not recommended unless it is a severe case. Therapy, deep relaxation (like self-hypnosis), hot baths, yoga and good husbands are all very helpful. Aside from utilizing all these usual tools to combat the difficulties I am facing, I have found prayer and receiving Priesthood blessings to be the most empowering source of help. At least in my case, I don’t need words of pity, but rather a practical helping hand. I find this in my husband, my extended family, and my awesome, cheap maid service. During my first pregnancy, I needed a lot of friends and family support (which I received in abundance). I knew something was wrong but I couldn’t put my finger on it. This pregnancy, I have done my research and after investigating ADP, it is like a light bulb coming on, illuminating all of the struggles I have had.

Pregnancy is truly a miracle.

It’s a miracle I raised my hand (four times) to voluntarily take upon me the pains, the daily tears and the darkness of pregnancy. And a miracle for every woman who sacrifices her body for someone else in pregnancy. I knew I wouldn’t be my normal, upbeat, social, productive self when I made this choice. But I do it for another. I feel closer to my Savior Jesus Christ at this period of time because He not only took upon himself the darkness some women face in pregnancy, but also every single ailment and pain every person has ever experienced. I have felt His love and His strength during this difficult time.

And for that I am deeply, profoundly grateful.

I hope we can talk about this issue more fully, openly and thoughtfully. Those who suffer from APD or accompanying symptoms will not have to feel embarrassed or fearful for speaking up. Employers, friends and family can show greater compassion and help. And most importantly, I hope awareness and education is spread about this important topic.

A pizza joint, diapering and shocked faces: Applying LDS Doctrine of Fatherhood

Today my husband had a goodbye lunch with his coworkers at our favorite pizza joint. There were about 6-7 male engineers and one woman attending (and Daniel and I). My husband became aware that Daniel needed a diaper change and, not saying a word, grabbed Daniel and the diaper bag and went to the bathroom to change him (no big deal for us). All these engineers, ages from about late 20’s to late 50’s, became silent, shocked, staring at Kurt as he left. The only other woman at the table proclaimed, “Wow! You have an incredible husband!” I added nonchalantly, shrugging my shoulders, “Well, yea, and ofcourse … he gets up with him at night too.” There were mutters of surprise and shock. One middle-aged guy leaned over and said to me intensely, “Don’t ever talk to my wife!” Laughter ensued. I felt like I had to defend him, “He is a really hands-on Dad.” Once again, the lady in the back exclaimed, “You are so lucky!” My husband came back, everyone staring at him. (It was so obvious and uncomfortable that Kurt later asked me why everyone had stared at him).

Oh. My. Word. Why in the world would a Father parenting be shocking? I wish we lived in a world where a father parenting properly was just routine, part of what happens, not some bizarre occurrence that gets exclamations about how wonderful and rare my husband is. How can we change this terrible culture? And all of these men are LDS, which left me feeling empty and discouraged. Understanding the doctrine of an eternal marriage and the doctrine of parenting has been drilled into us since we were little, and yet, it appears, that some average, very intelligent, successful men still have no clue how to apply the doctrine. Sigh.

I love this quote (which applies directly to diapering) from Elder Boyd K. Packer (an Apostle of the Lord):
“There is no task, however menial, connected with the care of babies, the nurturing of children, or with the maintenance of the home that is not the husband’s equal obligation.  The tasks which come with parenthood, which many consider to be below other tasks, are simply above them.”

Daddy teaching how to play piano
Daddy teaching how to play piano

In the meantime, I pray for sincere patience. I also pray there are more Fathers like my husband out there just doing the normal, routine, average work of parenting, but who are silently leading examples of what it means to be a true, equal partner in marriage and a good Father.

***As a side note, my husband loves his coworkers. They are great people and he has enjoyed his time with them. This post was not intended to personally attack anyone or any company, but merely to point out a general trend that is disturbing. 

Patterns of Dissension from the Book of Mormon: Building a Church “up unto themselves”

I’ve seen the following questions swirling around the bloggernacle and social media, and I’d like to explore these two questions:
1. How does one get excommunicated? In essence, what does dissension look like?
2. Because of recent disciplinary action, can I still voice my opinions and beliefs openly? Can groups of like-minded people still gather to discuss concerns?

The stories of dissension in the Book of Mormon reveal powerful patterns of apostasy that are all too prevalent in the complexities of our own modern era. The two most recent occurrences that have been swirling in the media are Kate Kelly and John Dehlin. This article is not intended to judge their individual state of excommunication (my heart saddens that their choices have led them to this), but rather to point out the general progression of dissension as found in the power of the “most correct book on earth.”

From the very first dissension of Laman and Lemuel to the lies of Korihor and so forth, the Book of Mormon is evidently full of stories of dissension.  A form of the word “dissent” is mentioned 31 times in the Book of Mormon; “apostasy” is not mentioned once. Thus when we discuss the idea of groups of people leaving the Church we use the word “dissent,” defined as “the act of protesting; a public (often organized) manifestation of dissent” (definr.com).

Church of Dissension

Patterns of Dissension

1. Public Disobedience

All of us are sinners to one degree or another. And sharing stories about disobedience is common and can help in the healing process (see Alma 36 when Alma shared his story of disobedience and repentance with his son). Public disobedience, on the other hand, looks quite different. Through the crafty teachings of Korihor, it is obvious that he publically and loudly disobeyed the law of chastity (see Alma 30:18). Alma the younger is another example where he flaunted his disobedience: “…he became a very wicked and an idolatrous man… and did speak much flattery to the people” (Mosiah 27:8). In every instance, dissension begins with some form of unrepentant, public disobedience.

KorihorKorihor

2. Contortion of Doctrine

We all struggle with different points of doctrine from time to time and many of us simply have concerns or questions. But deliberate alteration, changing or contortion of doctrine looks quite different from sincere inquiry. Notice that in most instances, public disobedience is closely followed by contention (10 of the 31 verses that mention the word “dissent” also contain the word “contention”). In Helaman it reads that “there were many dissensions in the church, and there was also a contention among the people” (Helaman 4:1).

When you read the details of these stories, it seems that the contention arises due to a desire to change doctrine. In the case of the Priests of Noah, they were Priesthood holders, leaders of the Church who eventually dissented to the Lamanites. There, they were appointed teachers in every land and they taught them nothing “concerning the Lord their God, neither the law of Moses; nor did they teach them the words of Abinadi” (Mosiah 24:5). In this case, they left behind the doctrine altogether and taught their own doctrines, sparking future battles with the Nephites. Nehor is a prime example of altering doctrine to please himself and others. He taught what he believed to be the word of God that “all mankind should be saved at the last day” (Alma 1:3-5). He was so successful in his deceiving that the people supported him with money.

NehorNehor

It appears that in every case of dissension, the true doctrines of Christ were changed to benefit the leader or group, give pleasure to the carnal mind and/or allow some form of disobedience to ensue. Doubt in the true doctrine was a powerful tool used by these groups to cause confusion and contention.

3. Gathering Groups of Dissenters

Once public disobedience and alteration of doctrine has been established, dissenters gather themselves together. Some gather to complain about injustices (Amalickiahites), others gather to cause contention and still others gather to thwart the doctrines of Christ.
One less-noted example is the group called the King-men. They desired to overthrow the government, and establish a King. If you notice, it appears that these followers were also members of the Church but desired to overthrow the doctrine of freedom. They gathered themselves while still meeting with the Saints. Some groups, such as the Gadianton Robbers, physically separate themselves from the Church to gather, while others, such as the King-men gather while still claiming to be a part of the Church. In both cases, these gatherings are meant to cause doubt, contention and are not led by any authorized to conduct meetings.

Groups of DissensionGathering Groups

4. Building a Church “up unto themselves”

The last and final step is building up a Church unto themselves. These Church’s are organized and contain all of the above elements. We read that the Zoramites were “dissenters from the Nephites… therefore they had the word of God preached unto them” (Alma 31:8-11). They turned their backs on the Church, formed their own group, stood upon Rameumptoms and “pervert[ed] the ways of the Lord in very many instances.”  These church’s have no authority, no revelation, and are antithesis to Christ’s Church.

RameumptomZoramites

Consequences of Dissension

            Korihor became a beggar and was “run upon and trodden down, even until he was dead” (Alma 30:58). Alma the younger was shown mercy as an angel of God appeared to him and warned that if he did not repent he would be “destroyed” (Alma 36:9). All of the descendants of the priests of Noah were hunted down and slain (Alma 25:4). Nehor was taken to the top of the hill Manti and “suffered an ignominious death” (Alma 1:15). Four thousand of the King-Men were “hewn down by the sword” and the remainder “yielded to the standard of liberty” (Alma 51). The Zoramites joined the Lamanites and initiated a large battle with the Nephites (Alma 35).

ZoramitesDestruction

In each instance, mercy was offered many times by the Lord. And in each instance, the consequences that befell each group of dissidents were of their own making.

How to Avoid Personal Dissension

In light of the countless examples in the Book of Mormon, I return to our complex modern era. Many have asked, “Can I still meet in groups of like-minded people to discuss my concerns?” The answer is obviously yes, but with some stipulations. When I was a student at BYU, I met with a great group of students to discuss women’s issues internationally. We were open, sincere and discussed many doctrinal concerns. But we used the doctrine to answer our questions, we followed the living Prophet and we had no agenda. The Spirit was present and we were motivated to continue to be obedient.

The concerns arise when one of the elements of dissension is present. For example, in the Ordain Women movement, every element is present – disobedience of leaders to take down the website, an aggressive desire to change doctrine, gathering groups of dissenters on the internet, and a building up of a new Church (they even have 6 new “discussions” to preach). Other examples are prevalent but I will not list them here.

The following is a litmus test of questions that can be asked if someone wonders about dissension:
1. Are my interactions with this group causing me to desire disobedience or doubt in any way?
2. Are the gatherings filled with the Spirit of God or are the gatherings meant to allow me to fester concerns or create doubt?
3. Is the group I am affiliated with desire to change the doctrine in any way?
4.  Does the group have its own teachings, philosophies or organization that is contrary to the Church in any way?

The Book of Mormon is clear and we must choose to be also. God has established His Church and His methods, or patterns of faithfulness.

Patterns of FaithfulnessChurch of Christ