Pres. Julie Beck

A lot of fantastic things were said in General Conference this weekend, and I want to highlight some of my favorites, but there has been a lot said about President Beck’s talk (the best from Kristine and Julie) and I want to add my thoughts.  First, a little background:  My wife and I do not have the typical Mormon family (assuming such a thing actually exists): 

Exhibit A:  We have two children.  We would have liked to have more but we lost a baby on the way to our third and there were sound medical and emotional reasons to stop there.  I don’t have regrets about that, necessarily, but I do love kids and I hope to have more in the eternities.  For now I just want to be the best parent I can be to the kids I do have, and not worry about kids I don’t have.

Exhibit B:  My wife works full time (PC linguists: in this post, “work” = “employment outside the home” and is not meant as a put-down of work done in the home, which I believe is the responsibility of both wives and husbands, so there).  She took about three years off when our kids were very small, but other than that, she has always worked full time. 

Could we survive on my income?  Yes, I feel certain that, for most of our marriage we could have done so.  It may not be possible right now, because I have started my own firm recently, but I’m sure that soon we will again be in a position where we don’t absolutely need my wife’s income.  My wife’s choice to work (or not work) is her own.  I try very hard not to pressure her either way, and also try to be supportive of the choice she makes.  

I am very grateful for my wife’s decision to work outside the home for two reasons: (1) her contribution to our family income is substantial and allows us to be more financially secure than we would be otherwise and (2) her choice allows me to be the primary caregiver for our kids when she is at work.  She has nearly always worked a lot of weekends and evenings, which means that I have had the opportunity to be the person doing all the food preparation, diaper changing, playing, bathing, putting to bed, etc. that my kids needed during those times that I am home and she is not.  I believe this has been a great gift to me as a father and I would not trade it for the world.  

So, we’re a little different from the average Mormon family, and when some church leaders give talks (usually this especially includes women leaders) we tend to cringe a bit, because our experience is that most members and some leaders talk like they don’t value our choice and think we’re doing something wrong.  Maybe that’s just our perception, maybe we’re just defensive, but it’s how we’ve come to feel.

With that background, perhaps you will understand that we were not particularly charitable in our reaction on first hearing President Beck’s talk.  We understood her to say that mothers in the church, in order to qualify as “mothers who know” should:  (1) have a lot of kids, (2) keep a perfect house, (3) always send their children to church with ironed dresses and missionary haircuts, (4) not waste time educating hemselves, (5) focus exclusively on mothering (which primarily means doing housekeeping chores).  We thought it was a throwback to the 1950s. 

After actually reading her talk, I now believe that President Beck said none of these things.  Here is what she actually said:

In the Book of Mormon, we read about 2000 exemplary young men who were exceedingly valiant, courageous and strong.  They were men of truth and soberness for they had been taught to keep the commandments of God and to walk uprightly before him.  These faithful young men paid tribute to their mothers.  They said, “Our mothers knew it.”  I suspect that the mothers of Captain Moroni, Mosiah, Mormon and other great leaders also knew.

The responsibility mothers have today has never required more vigilance.  More than at any time in the history of the world we need mothers who know.  Children are being born into a world where they wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.  However, mothers need not fear.  When mothers know who they are, who God is, and have made covenants with him, they will have great power for influence for good on their children.

Mothers who know desire to bear children.  Whereas in many cultures of the world children are becoming less valued; in the culture of the gospel we still believe in having children.  Prophets seers and revelators who have been sustained at this conference have declared that God’s commandment for his children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force.  President Ezra Taft Benson taught that young couples should not postpone having children, and that in the eternal perspective, children – not possessions, not position, not prestige – are our greatest jewels.

Faithful daughters of God desire children.  In the scriptures we read of Eve, Sarah, Rebecca, and Mary, who were foreordained to be mothers before children were born to them.  Some women are not given the responsibility of bearing children in mortality, but just as Hannah in the Old Testament prayed fervently for her child, the value women place on motherhood in this life and the attributes of motherhood they attain will rise with them in the resurrection.  Women who desire and work toward that blessing in this life are promised they will receive it for all eternity.  And eternity is much, much longer than mortality.  There is eternal influence and power in motherhood.

Mothers who know honor sacred ordinances and covenants.  I have visited sacrament meetings in some of the poorest places on the earth, where mothers have dressed with great care in their Sunday best, despite walking for miles on dusty streets and using worn out public transportation.  They bring daughters in clean and ironed dresses. Their sons wear white shirts and ties and have missionary haircuts.  They are going to sacrament meeting where covenants are renewed.  These mothers have made and honor temple covenants.  They know that if they are not pointing their children to the temple they are not pointing them to desired eternal goals.  These mothers have influence and power.

Mothers who know are nurturers.  This is their special assignment and role in the plan of happiness.  To nurture means to cultivate, care for, and make grow.  Therefore, mothers who know create a climate for spiritual and temporal growth in their homes. Another word for nurturing is homemaking.  Homemaking includes cooking, washing clothes and dishes and keeping an orderly home.  Home is where women have the most power and influence.  Therefore, Latter-day Saint women should be the best homemakers in the world.  Working beside children in homemaking tasks creates opportunities to teach and model qualities children should emulate.  

Nurturing mothers are knowledgeable, but all the education women attain will avail them nothing if they do not have the skill to make up homes that create a climate for spiritual growth.  Growth happens best in a house of order, and women should pattern their homes after the Lord’s house.  Nurturing requires organization, patience, love, and work.  Helping growth occur through nurturing is truly a powerful and influential role bestowed on women.

Mothers who know are leaders.  In equal partnership with their husbands, they lead a great and eternal organization.  These mothers plan for the future of their organization.  They plan for missions, temple marriages, and education.  They plan for prayer, scripture study, and family home evening.  

Mothers who know build children into future leaders and are the primary examples of what leaders look like. They do not abandon their plan by succumbing to social pressure and worldly models of parenting.  These wise mothers who know are selective about their own activities and involvement to conserve their limited strength in order to maximize their influence where it matters most.

Mothers who know are always teachers.  Since they are not babysitters, they are never off duty.  A well-taught friend told me that he did not learn anything at church that he had not already learned at home.  His parents used family scripture study, prayer, family home evening, mealtime, and other gatherings to teach.  Think of the power of our future missionary force if mothers considered their homes as a pre-missionary training center.  Then the doctrines of the gospel taught in the MTC would be a review and not a revelation.  That is influence.  That is power.

Mothers who know do less.  They permit less of what will not bear good fruit eternally.  They allow less media in their homes, less distraction, less activity that draws their children away from their home.  

Mothers who know are willing to live on less and consume less of the world’s goods in order to spend more time with their children, more time eating together, more time working together, more time reading together, more time laughing, talking, singing, and exemplifying.  These mothers choose carefully and do not try to choose it all. Their goal is to prepare a rising generation of children who will take the gospel of Jesus Christ into the entire world. Their goal is to prepare future fathers and mothers who will be builders of the Lord’s kingdom for the next 50 years. That is influence. That is power.

Who will prepare this righteous generation of sons and daughters?  Latter-day Saint women will do this; women who know and love the Lord and bear testimony of him, women whose wills are strong and immovable, who do not give up during difficult and discouraging times.

We are led by an inspired prophet of God who has called upon the women of the church to stand strong and immovable for that which is correct and proper under the plan of the Lord.  He has asked us to begin in our own homes, to teach children the ways of truth.  Latter-day Saint women should excel at upholding, nourishing, and protecting families.  I have every confidence that our women will do this, and will come to be known as mothers who knew; in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Ok, now my thoughts:

First, this is, of course, a talk on motherhood, which in our church is fraught with peril. There is no way to give a perfect talk on motherhood that will be accepted by all in the church because the perceptions about the roles of mothers are so disparate and each and every person is always comparing your words to either (1) their mother, or (2) themselves, or (3) both, so that no matter what the talk says it is highly likely to offend one or all of those perceptions. Despite this, I think this talk is, in fact, a pretty great talk on motherhood for the following reasons:

1. We always hear about those mothers of the 2000 stripling warriors, but we never hear much about why they were so worthy of praise. This talk actually tries to tackle the reasons why maybe those mothers were singled out for praise.  Of course, we can never know whether those ancient mothers actually had these qualities, but it’s interesting to think about and hear a talk about what may have been the reasons for those mothers’ success, and how mothers today might apply those principles.

2. The fourth paragraph. This is the place that most critics of this talk go wrong.  They are not hearing her words in this paragraph or they are not understanding them.  When most people give talks on this subject they hem and haw around about how “all women are mothers in some way” and in trying to be all-inclusive they lose their audience because, of course, that’s just not true in any real sense.  The usual alternative to this approach is just not to talk about motherhood at all because “the women who are not mothers will feel left out.”

Well, maybe, but the fact is we do need to talk about motherhood. It’s damn important. To my kids and yours. So here’s what Pres. Beck did: she didn’t apologize, she didn’t extemporize, she just admitted the truth: some women will not be mothers in this life.  But here’s the genius part: she didn’t let them off the hook.

She mentions Hannah who was childless for years but who fasted and prayed and got a son, whom she dedicated to the Lord.  Is Pres. Beck advocating this course of action to childless couples?  Maybe, but I think more important is this:

…the value women place on motherhood in this life and the attributes of motherhood they attain will rise with them in the resurrection.  Women who desire and work toward that blessing in this life are promised they will receive it for all eternity.  And eternity is much, much longer than mortality.

Wow.  In other words: Whether you are a mother or not you should be desiring and preparing to be a mother, because you will keep forever those things you learn, and if you desire children and prepare to be a mother, you will be a mother, even if it’s not in this lifeAnd the next life is much longer anyway.  I’m not sure I’ve ever heard that said exactly that way before but it’s a promise, if you care to believe that, and it nicely makes the talk applicable to all women, whether they are currently mothers or not.

3.  She says getting your kids to church meetings = honoring your covenants.  This is the part where most (including me) misinterpreted her to say that your kids need to have ironed dresses and perfect hair.  She did not say that.  She just holds up as an example a mother who has done that, against all odds.  It’s easy to misread that, but it’s obvious upon close reading that she’s not elevating appearance over substance here.  What she actually is saying is that when you get your kids to sacrament meeting you are honoring your temple covenants.  Cool! 

4.  She brings “homemaking” (which she says includes housework) into the definition of “nurturing.”  Everyone, including me, was looking at this backwards.  She didn’t say that nurturing = housework.  She is actually elevating the housework that you do to the level of “nurturing.”  Like this: Nurturing = Homemaking.  A part of homemaking is housework.  Therefore, when you are doing housework, you are really nurturing your children. 

 Sort of makes you feel better about doing housework, huh?  I think that’s the intent here.  And it’s great that she recommends teaching children by doing housework with them (not hiring it out).  That is great advice. 

The unfortunate thing is that she then said “Latter-day Saint Women should be the best homemakers in the world.”  I’m not sure where she’s going with that, but when you consider that housework is only part of homemaking, you can see she doesn’t mean “you should have the cleanest house on the block or you’re a failure as a Latter-day Saint woman.”  Which is how many have read it.  It would have been nice, especially for dads like me, if she mentioned that fathers can have a role in nurturing, including housework, too.  But that may be extranneous to the point she’s making.

 The second paragraph under nurturing also could have been better.  She seems to be undervaluing education for women, and she seems to be saying your house should look like the temple.  I don’t think that’s what she meant in either case, but you can see why some have taken offense at that paragraph and have, perhaps fairly, criticized this part of the talk.  Personally, I think she should have just left that paragraph out, except the part about nurturing being a powerful and influential role.  Clearly, she’s right on there.

5.  She says mothers should be leaders, teachers, and should focus on conserving not consuming.  This part of the talk has been widely praised, and rightly so.  It’s actually progressive (as some have recognized) for her to suggest that women should lead in the home, rather than follow the leadership of the husband.  The truly progressive part, though, is where she says that mothers should “do less” and conserve their time and energy for things that matter most.  This is where her talk dovetails nicely with Elder Oaks’ talk which came after hers.  Both are giving people permission to not involve their kids in every sport or activity and to not become coaches and PTA presidents if it takes necessary time away from being with and raising their children.  That is extremely good and necessary advice, though maybe it won’t be welcomed by civic organizations.  

In conclusion, most of what the talk did say was very valuable.  Most of the criticism leveled against it is criticizing it for things it did not say.  Contrary to popular opinion, it did not say you should have a lot of kids (Beck only has three herself).  It did not say women should never work outside the home.  It did not say women’s roles should be limited to house work.  It did not say women should not get an education.  It did elevate the work of having and teaching children to the highest importance.  We should agree with and celebrate that.

 UPDATE:  A group has now prepared a response to Pres. Beck’s talk, entitled “What Women Know,” which you can read here.  Julie M. Smith, at Times & Seasons, posted her thoughts on this here.  I agree with those who have said that this letter seems to be raising some arguments that are not addressed in Beck’s talk and, therefore, to me it misses the mark.  I also question whether this is the way to voice healthy disagreement with a church leader.  I haven’t made up my mind on that yet.  

38 Responses

  1. The massive problem here is that the talk isn’t really — or at least shouldn’t really be — about mothers and women. It’s about parents. The decision to talk as if these were distinctive issues of mothering, and advice to mothers, is a deeply sexist choice that fundamentally scars an otherwise serviceable (if somewhat excessively materially-oriented) talk.

  2. [...] (note, I’m certain President Beck is going to take flak for this talk from some in the Church, and particularly some who frequent the Bloggernacle. Frankly I liked it, and it was something that we needed to hear). (And, I was right. The onslaught and belittling has already begun. See here and here). (Further note–for different, and I think much more moderate and respectful reviews of President Beck’s talk, please see Kristine’s well done post over at BCC as well as Julie’s over at Times and Seasons and MCQ’s post here). [...]

  3. RT, I think I agree with you, but there is an enormous weight of tradition against women addressing men in a serious way–a woman enjoining men to be better fathers would have been shocking. (Naturally, I think we desperately need to be shocked in this way.)

  4. Yeah, Kristine, I would have no problem with her taking that tack but I think it would have been seen by some as something of an infringement on the role of the priesthood. I think that’s why she phrased it the way she did, JNS. It really does seem like she went out of her way to address only women.

  5. I agree with both of you about the probable political reasons why Beck did phrase this talk as advice only for women. Yet with a careful read through it, I’m just not at all sure that she said anything that doesn’t equally apply to men. Shouldn’t men arrange their work lives so as to make sure they have time with their children? Shouldn’t men be equally involved in creating a physical space for the family? The one point of question involves the discussion of bearing children, but if we accept that most families which don’t have children are motivated by the desire to avoid caring for and paying for children more than the desire to avoid pregnancy, this also becomes an issue for both men and women.

    Beck may not have been politically able to give this talk without limiting its application to women only. Yet the idea that these are issues distinctively for women is so badly retrograde that one wonders whether the cost of giving the talk only to women might not be higher than the benefits of the talk. How many men feel just a bit more confident today that they don’t have any real responsibility for parenting?

  6. I agree with your 1st paragraph 100% JNS, but:

    “How many men feel just a bit more confident today that they don’t have any real responsibility for parenting?”

    The same amount of men who have IQs at or below that of a houseplant.

    If there is anything that can convince you that you have no role in raising your own children, you should be legally prohibited from having them (on the principle that procreation for such a person is a danger to society).

  7. All the talks in conference were very direct. I’m thankful that she didn’t pussyfoot around the subject. that we’re great, and we can do it… bla bla. She gave very specific examples and things to target. Who could ask for more, make a list, check it off. If you don’t check of everything everyday are you failing? NO, but give yourself something to strive toward. An outline given by a woman called of God who, undoubtedly prayed and wrote and rewrote her talk with the Lord’s guidance to reach women, with, as shown at all these blogs, was a desperately needed message.
    Trying to say she wasn’t speaking to men is silly. Men heard it, do you think all the parenting of our children’s souls is the woman’s sole responsibility? do you not think, that because of the yoke we bear, that our husbands are not roped in that yoke with us? That them fulfilling their eternal obligations does not actually make our job easier? The Wheat is being separated from the Chaff here.

  8. McQ, I don’t share your confidence that people’s attitudes aren’t affected by outside messages.

    I am intrigued by your notion that parents who feel no direct responsibility to nurture should be prohibited from having children. So many families would be decimated…

  9. ASavage: Thanks, I’ve read that same comment on three blogs now. Care to elaborate, or is your “paste” button stuck? What are you going to name the baby?

    JNS: I wasn’t referring to all attitudes. This is a special case. We all should have parental instincts that override outside influences on this subject. Kind of like telling a lion that he need not eat gazelle.

    “So many families would be decimated…” Hmmm. Maybe. I guess you have a lower opinion of people than I do. I was thinking that would affect very very few.

  10. Someone stole my handle elsewhere, I really wanted to share my opinion! I’m loving the discussion! It’s my 3rd boy and I’ve run out of names…

    I heard her talk and told my husband that this would make some women mad, so reading these posts is both fun and sad. I’m glad that the idea of raising your children in a house patterned after the Lord’s is a concept that she introduced. I strive for it. Maybe not succeed, but strive. What more can anyone do?

  11. How about Omner or Himni?

    The problem is that so many are upset by things she didn’t say. If everyone would just dispassionately read her actual words, I think they would settle down. It’s much less controversial than it’s been portrayed.

  12. I really saw so much of what she said as a direct challenge to examine my parenting and improve. Not a confrontation or accusations as so many women seem to have taken her talk. I’m so far from perfect, so much of what she said is what I know I need to improve. I love when conference speaks to me, like the Lord knew what I needed to hear.

    The parental name battle has narrowed him to:
    James Henry Savage
    or
    Henry James Savage

    I’m 5 weeks away from meeting him, maybe he’ll wink or something when we get it right.

  13. Henry James! One of my favorite authors!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_James

    My favorite story of his is “The Beast in the Jungle.” Fabulous.

    Annie, I’m guessing that the difference is that you listened to the talk with the spirit. It’s hard to get offended if the spirit is involved. Does being pregnant
    help or hinder that?

  14. My kids were with their grandparents for the weekend, I have tivo and I had already eaten. Ways to invite the spirit for anyone. (oh, and the livingroom was clean).

    THANKS, Henry James is my pick, I’ll show this to my DH.

  15. I did not have a chance to attend Conference this weekend, due to also having to work. I however read Pres. Beck’s talk and did not have the same adverse reaction so many seemed to have had about it. Perhaps because I did not initially listen I was able to be objective. The points you highlighted was exactly what I thought she mean. There is nothing wrong w/ stating we should strive to be better mothers! Heaven knows someone needs to say it! Thank you for your thoughts.

  16. Meant….

    I thought she ‘meant’….not mean. I am only slightly educated. LOL! (just kidding, of course.)

  17. Amen, brother! And, thanks for that great perspective. If women heard the talk Sis. Beck gave at Women’s Conf. last week…this was just more of the same-filled with encouragement (I thought) and the Spirit.

  18. Thanks all, for your great comments.

  19. Thanks so much for this post and including your background. It really helped me re-evaluate her talk.

  20. I would be very interested to see if Sister Beck herself would agree with your characterization of her talk. I don’t think so. Surely, she meant more than “getting kids to church meetings = honoring your covenants.” That sould be a pretty low standard if that was all. What was the point of the hair, ironed, white shirt thing?

    More importantly, while she didn’t say women should not work outside the home, I believe she would be offended/surprised by your interpretation that she didn’t mean that.

    My problem, however, is more limited. See the following language:

    “Mothers who know are nurturers. This is their special assignment and role in the plan of happiness.”

    Great so far.

    “To nurture means to cultivate, care for, and make grow. Therefore, mothers who know create a climate for spiritual and temporal growth in their homes.”

    Great so far.

    “Another word for nurturing is homemaking. Homemaking includes cooking, washing clothes and dishes and keeping an orderly home.”

    Maybe, depending on the breadth she assumes. I think making a loving nest for growth, i.e. homemaking, is an essential form of nurturing children. I think homemaking includes assuring the necessary levels of order and cleanliness.

    I don’t think it requires personally washing clothes or dishes, for instance. Now, for some women, the everyday cleaning jobs are a way of showing their family their love. For other women, providing food is how they show their love. For other women, talking and advising and staying personally and psychologically close is how they show their love.

    Although cleanliness and food are necessary, I would not think that a mother who assigns out those chores (while still doing many, many things hand in hand with her children so they can learn team work, discipline, and skills) is somehow not a nurturer.

    I grew up with a clean fanatic mother. I know first hand what a housework queen is like — and I accept that she believed that was how to show me she loved me. She grew up desparately wishing her mother was more into clothes, ironing, tidiness, etc. But my mother was into minimal eating and health food.

    I have a mother in law who thinks providing food is nurturing. We can hardly get her to sit down and talk with us over big decisions or play with our infants because she is so consumed in making sure every possible cullinary delight is available at all times. She doesn’t cook for herself; but the food is central as soon as the children and grandchildren pass the door. When I lived far away, she mailed me my favorite foods. She wouldn’t know a spit shine if it bit her.

    I accept that she does what she does because she loves me.

    I have someone who does my laundry. The kids learned how to do their own. I have someone who cooks on workdays. On weekends, I cook with my kids. I have someone who mows the lawn. My kids weed and plant flowers with me. I have someone who vacuums and runs errands. My kids and I love to do all the pool maintenance stuff.

    My language of love is listening, cuddling, talking through personal, work, and social issues, making jokes. My mother did some, but not much of that, and my mother in law would be horrified if I asked her to sit on the couch, hold me and talk about my worries and plans. I’ve tried the talk about “issues” thing. It makes her physically uncomfortable. But I know she loves me and she nurtures and teaches me.

    “Nurturing mothers are knowledgeable, but all the education women attain will avail them nothing if they do not have the skill to make up homes that create a climate for spiritual growth.”

    Terrific.

    “Growth happens best in a house of order, and women should pattern their homes after the Lord’s house.”

    I don’t know what this means. Since my mother’s favorite scripture (and the preface to her autobiography) is the “house of order” scripture, I have a hard time seeing the word without thinking of the sorted, classified, and labeled contents of each of her drawers. That can’t be the measure of eternal motherhood. And “house of the Lord” means temple to me. The temples I attend are certainly clean (although as one goes around the world, some are cleaner than others.) But, have you noticed that entire crew in white who works there all during the night?
    The Temple Matron isn’t doing the cleaning, nor are the ordinance workers.

  21. Wow. In other words: Whether you are a mother or not you should be desiring and preparing to be a mother, because you will keep forever those things you learn, and if you desire children and prepare to be a mother, you will be a mother, even if it’s not in this life. And the next life is much longer anyway. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard that said exactly that way before but it’s a promise, if you care to believe that, and it nicely makes the talk applicable to all women, whether they are currently mothers or not.

    I was sooo moved by this part of the talk. It gave me perspective, motivation and hope. I think you hit the nail on the head on how it applies to ALL women. Motherhood (nurturing, helping with spiritual and temporal growth of God’s children) should matter to all of us, because that is our eternal potential. We can strive to develop traits of nurturing and caring for the children of God, creating homes that are places of spiritual growth (even if they are currently habitations for one) and desiring to nurture, even if not one’s own children for now. I find that when I have this kind of perspective, I treat other people’s children differently, too.

    I don’t think it requires personally washing clothes or dishes, for instance.

    Ariel, I think it’s important to note that she made it clear that part of the reason cleanliness matters is because part of our role is to help children learn how to work, and also to teach by example. I was fascinated to see that the picture shown while she talked of this was of a FATHER doing dishes with the children. Nowhere do I see her saying momma has to do all of the work. I think that is significant.

    I also think a house of order means a lot more than just a house with cool organization containers. :) Temples have a reverent spirit. They are decorated in a way to try to focus the mind heavenward. They are clean and neat. They are places where sacred things happen. They are places where soft words are spoken. I think we can chew on this analogy a lot.

    And the cleaning may be done by a crew, but what is a family but a potential cleaning crew? :) No one person cleans the temple, so that gets to your concern about mom doing it all…. :)

    I think it’s noteworthy that the BD says this: “Only the home can compare with the temple in sacredness.”

    One last thought, which I covered in more detail on my blog. She talked about soooo many things besides just the chores part of nurturing and what we can do to provide an environment where children can thrive spiritually and temporally that I think her talk deserves a few good readings to see the breadth of what she taught. As MCQ has so aptly shown here, there was so much more to the talk than what met first impressions. This is going to be a talk that will have the most net positive impact on my life because it has given me concrete things I can focus on in my role as mother. I’m overwhelmed, but in a good way because there is so much that can be improved and its’ exciting because I believe what she said — creating a sacred and growth-fostering space in our homes is where the true power and influence is. Such a work (even down to the ‘mundane’ as MCQ said so well) can have an eternal impact and that is breathtaking to me.

  22. I thought her talk was rather ridiculous. Mothers who know…what does that mean? It seemed like one of another long series of talks that really mean nothing, and that people like you can take it tomean anything they want.

    Isn’t it time to really have an honest dialog about what it means to be a parent instead of the drivel Julie Beck spouts that really only serves to make women feel like they cannot reach some unattainable standard.

    Conferences are becoming more and more boring. We need a breath of fresh air in the Relief Society and in the Church.

  23. Ariel: I don’t disagree with most of what you say, but I think much of that is beyond the scope of President Beck’s talk.

    My intent in providing my analysis of the talk was to analyse what she actually said. What she meant by what she said (to the extent those are two different things), well, I am not qualified to guess (and neither, I suspect, are you).

    I think we get ourselves in a lot of trouble when we assume that we know what a speaker meant. I wrote about what she said. You can speculate about what she meant if you wish, and good luck to you.

    As for your the specific issues you raise:

    Would Sister Beck agree with my analysis? I can’t imagine. But I think that’s beside the point. Since my intent was to analyse what she actually said, there seems little room for her to disagree. After all, she did say what she said. My analysis differs from much that is elsewhere in the bloggernacle, where people are busy discussing things she did not say. I think she would prefer my analysis to theirs.

    You said:

    “Surely, she meant more than “getting kids to church meetings = honoring your covenants.” That sould be a pretty low standard if that was all. What was the point of the hair, ironed, white shirt thing?”

    Again, I don’t know what she meant, but she did say that taking your kids to church = honoring your covenants. In fact, she’s not the first or only one to say this. It’s just plain sense that you are honoring your covenants by taking your kids to church. Is that all you have to do to honor your covenants? Well, of course not, but it is certainly one thing. I have no idea what you mean by “a pretty low standard.”

    The hair and shirt thing: As I said in my analysis, she uses the mothers in “some of the poorest places on earth” as an example of great sacrifice. This is a well known rhetorical device. It’s similar to the Savior’s “parable of the widow’s mite.”

    In other words, like the widow, these mothers in the poorest areas of the world must sacrifice so much in order to attend Sacrament meeting, yet, not only do they attend, they come in their sunday best, which requires monumental effort in those places.

    The point of the story isn’t how they are dressed, it’s that they are making sacrifices to attend church, because they honor their covenants. The fact that they are dressed nicely just shows how willing they are to sacrifice.

    You said:
    “More importantly, while she didn’t say women should not work outside the home, I believe she would be offended/surprised by your interpretation that she didn’t mean that.”

    Again, I did not say that she didn’t mean that. I said she didn’t say it. That is simply a fact, not an interpretation. I doubt she will be offended by my pointing out what she didn’t say. If your contention is that church leaders cannot give a talk on motherhood without implying that mothers should not work outside the home, then you are offending a lot more people than I am.

    I don’t disagree with anything else that you say, but I think I already made many of the points that you are making here, for example, I did not say that a mother personally has to do all the housework, and neither did Pres. Beck.

    What she said (and I agree) is that housekeeping chores are a part of nurturing and that it helps children to learn if you do chores alongside them. That doesn’t mean all chores. It would be good advice even if you did only one chore a month with your kids. You could hire the rest out if you wanted (and if you could afford it).

    “Pattern their homes after the Lord’s house” certainly does refer to the Temple. But notice, please, that it does not say: “make your house as clean as the Temple.” In fact, it does not reference “clean” at all in this sentence. It references “order.” If you are shooting at making your house as orderly as the Temple, that is a good goal. Of course, no one expects perfection here, and Pres. Beck just said “pattern” not perfect.

    “The Temple Matron isn’t doing the cleaning, nor are the ordinance workers.” No one said they were. Don’t know what your point is here.

    I agree with what you say about mothers having different ways of showing love. I would say, however, that while we should always show appreciation for all forms of showing love, some ways are inherently more healthy than others and some of the ways that you describe could be interpreted as being a symptom of mental illness, which could benefit from therapy. But, you know, to each his (or her) own.

  24. Bonnie: I think you’re wrong in every way. This talk obviously did not mean nothing. It would not be discussed all over the bloggernacle if it meant nothing. Obviously you think it meant something too, otherwise you wouldn’t be saying that it made “women feel like they cannot reach some unattainable standard.” It would be impossible to do that if it meant nothing, or even if it were “boring.”

    What, according to you, would a “breath of fresh air” be like, exactly? Can you describe that at all?

  25. m&m: Thanks, I loved your comment.

  26. Just wanted to thankyou – this was a great sum up of what Sister Beck was really trying to get across. Thanks again.

  27. You’re welcome Helen. Thanks for stopping by.

  28. Sorry, I’m a little late into this conversation – okay perhaps several months behind. But considering I just found this blog site – I’m hoping you’ll indulge me in a little debate on this topic. I heard the talk, read the talk and of course listened to all the wailing and whinning of women who took this as a direct personal attack on their “mothering” skills. Frankly, many of the complaining women are “whimps”. Many of them need to change their perspective or get a life. I am tired of listening to women whine about what they are or aren’t to do. I think each family is unique in their on child rearing style. For example you and your wife have, through the years, found a system that works for you and your children, and I am sure your children will grow up to be fine contributing members of society. I too, am a working mother of four. You would be surprised at the comments I get for working outside of my home, as if what they are doing is more “noble” holding themselves on a higher level than a women who works outside the home. I am weary of defending my choices to the ultra “conservative” within the LDS faith. Over the years, I have learned to ignore many of the comments sent in my direction. Since many of them come from women who may “stay at home”, but don’t really “parent” or “mother” or “Nurture”. Many of the complainers I encountered are mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually weak. They don’t want to do anything that would require effort, yet believing that by virture of giving birth they have fulfilled their spiritual obligation to have a family. I think those offended by her talk are just the individuals she was trying to reach.

  29. I think you’re right.

  30. This is crazy!!! Too many women are working outside of the home, too many women are choosing not to have children, or putting it off too long. Too many are neglecting homemaking for other pursuits. I am not saying this as a personal judgement against anyone I know, but looking at trends…both worldly and within the church. Motherhood is being devalued everywhere and as members of the church we are not far behind in those trends. She could have said it more gently…but the truth is still the truth. We need to toughen up and stop “taking the truth to be hard.” Only you know your family situation and it is between you and Lord to figure out how to work things. If we are doing the best we can….there is no need to feel guilty about those choices.

  31. I should have said too many women are choosing careers over families…instead of that too many women are working outside of the home…very different things.

  32. Rachelle: What does it mean to choose a career over a family? Does just having a career mean that you have chosen it over a family? I believe that, with some major help from their husbands, women who want careers can have them and families too.

  33. I suppose the most obvious answer would be that many women choose a career INSTEAD of a family. Meaning they either don’t have children or don’t devote time to raising them. Mostly, though I am just baffled at this conversation. Times are different and more women are forced into the workforce etc… etc… but it is like so many people are pretending that it has never been taught that “It was never intended by the Lord that married women should compete with men in employment.” (Spencer W. Kimball 1975) I realize that it is no longer politically correct, but it has been taught over and over again. I’m glad that we have a choice, I’m glad that social pressures toward working mothers are not what they were 30 years ago. However, as far as I know… the LDS teaching that “Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children” hasn’t changed.

  34. Well, I would say that there have been changes in what the general authorities have said on this subject in the last 20-30 years. The emphasis is different, and there are certainly a lot fewer speeches on this subject. Most people would not now interpret the words of the proclamation to mean that married women should never work outside the home. I know a lot of married mothers who work outside the home who still feel that they are “primarily responsible for the nurture of their children”

  35. In 2003 President Hinckley said to women, “You do not need some of the extravagances that working outside the home might bring. Weigh carefully the importance of your being in the home when your children come from school.” I have several more quotes, but I’m certain that you could find them if you were interested. The truth is….it has been taught by every prophet. Perhaps… not as strongly. The church leaders try not to offend. But I still think that it is considered the ideal situation. I am not trying to judge you or anyone else. I recognize your own opportunity to decide what is best for your family. My only confusion is that everyone is jumping all over Julie Beck because she may or may not have implied that womens place is in the home. Perhaps she was speaking as a called leader of women…who has not only re-taught something that has been taught by every prophet of the latter days…. but also is acting under revelation and inspiration to bring us (women) back home. Why are people (not necessarily you) criticizing her rather than seeking to understand what she taught? We do believe that our leaders are inspired and directed by God….don’t we? Especially a general conference talk would have had to be approved first…meaning in my opinion that she was expressing views that are in accordance with the church in general. If someone teaches about praying better…. people tend to feel insired to try harder and make changes. But when someone talks about homemaking…. we get offended. why?

  36. That quote from President Hinckley is much different from previous quotes from other Presidents in the past, so when you say, “it has been taught by every prophet,” you’re generalizing. It has not been taught by every prophet, there has been a large shift in the teachings on this subject.

    In addition, I don’t see the criticism of Julie Beck as being directed at her implying that “women’s place is in the home.” Rather, I see it being directed at her expressly stating that women need to raise their washing and cleaning skills to a higher level.

    Other than that, I agree with you. I assume that her talk was inspired and approved by the prophet. As for your final question, I think any time you question or criticize women’s homemaking skills, you’re going to get this reaction. It’s kind of a taboo subject, like criticizing a man’s skill in lovemaking. No matter how you say it, it’s not going to go over well.

  37. Thank you for your patience with me. You have caused me to reconsider some of my opinions. You have been so honest and kind, that I am curious if you will answer another question. I am troubled by all of the criticism of Julie Beck. Web pages that have rewritten her talk to serve their own needs…etc.. etc. I am new to the blogging world. Is this common…does this happen often after conference? Also…do you find it troubling? It seems disobedient and spiritual dangerous to me. Would you consider that opinion naive or overly conservative?

  38. No, I would consider it a normal opinion that you would have if you’re new to blogging. Of course, there are some long-time bloggers that continue to believe that criticism of any church leader is improper for members of the church, but for the most part, bloggers believe in a sort of free-for-all frankness, and an open exchange of views with no holds barred. It sounds unfaithful at first, but the more you dig into it, the more you realize that many people who you thought sounded unfaithful are actually deeply committed, believing, faithful members, who just need a place to discuss issues openly and honestly. These people are exploring, not really criticizing.

    The ones who are truly hostileto the church and have an axe to grind are easy to recognize, because they are sarcastic, insulting and intolerant of other views.
    I try to ignore those people. But the ones who are enaging in an honest dialogue are good to talk to, even if you don’t agree with them, because you can always learn from someone like that. There are some very smart people in the bloggernacle, and I come here to learn from them, as much as for anything else. I’m never disappointed. I learn new things every day.

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