Sunday, October 07, 2007

In defense of Sister Beck

As a blogger, and one who reads other blogs, I've come across a lot of strong resentment (here and here) toward Sister Beck's General Conference address in the Sunday morning session. Listen to the talk here. Many found it discouraging, guilt-inducing, and some found it downright offensive. They criticize her choice of words and discredit her address based on her being the freshman Relief Society President. I'm writing in defense of Sister Beck--I think she was grossly misunderstood by those critics. I'm always one who strives to sustain the leaders of the church, and I've taken a concerned and heartfelt approach to listen and ponder her address to the women of the world from her perspective as the General Relief Society President.

Sister Beck spoke about the need to be women--mothers--who know, meaning women who know to keep the commandments of God and walk uprightly before him. She identified that the challenges children will wrestle against in this world are "principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this world, spiritual wickedness in high places." Mothers who know who they are, who God is, and have made covenants with him are armed with the knowledge, power, and influence to bring up a righteous generation of children.

Mothers who know (1)honor sacred covenants, (2)are nurturers, (meaning they cultivate, care for, and make grow) by creating a climate for spiritual and temporal growth in their homes, (3)are leaders in equal partnership with their husbands, (4)are selective in their activities and involvement to conserve limited strength to spend more time with their children, (5) are always teachers, and (6) permit less of what will not bear good fruit eternally.

Sister Beck encouraged the practices of teaching the gospel in the home to point children toward righteous eternal goals such as temple marriage, and working together with children in homemaking tasks to teach and model emulable qualities. She didn't say to sweep and groom and wash and keep a perfect house. She didn't say we had to be perfect at housekeeping, but that growth happens best in a house of order (See Elder Oak's talk about good, better and best!) She didn't say our homes have to be as clean as the temple, but that we can pattern our homes after the Lord's house by applying the principles of organization, patience, love, and work.

Ultimately her message was not to discourage, but to encourage mothers in their role as the most powerful and influential in the lives of their children, and that by nature of knowing who we are and what our role is, LDS women would be the best in the world at homemaking (meaning nurturing children). "LDS women should excel in upholding, nourishing, and protecting families. Let us come to be known as mothers who knew." Prophets have taught on the role and value of motherhood, and have called upon us to teach our children in the ways of truth. This is nothing new. What is the problem?

I'm not offended by her address at all--in fact I'm relieved to hear this said. And I think her wording was careful and inspired. It is so true that the challenges facing our children are greater and uglier than ever before, and women need to know the expectation the Lord has for them. It is not a guilt-trip because your house isn't clean enough or you don't spend enough time and energy with your children. The encouragement to know the gospel and create a conducive home for gospel-teaching is equivalent to anyone else's address encouraging us to be better at bearing one anothers burdens or attending the temple or paying tithing or having more faith.

What is wrong with the counsel to be selective in our activities and involvment so that we have more energy to spend time nurturing children? It compels (not guilt-induces) me to spend less time on self-interested, energy-sapping things (perhaps I spend too much time on the computer...) and more time nurturing my daughter (not to indicate that that isn't energy-sapping in and of itself...) What is wrong with the counsel not to succumb to social pressure and worldly models of parenting (which I conclude means modeling behaviors not consistent with gospel teaching)? What is wrong with the counsel to permit less of those things that do not bear good fruit eternally?

I find it ultimately encouraging that "LDS women who love the Lord and bear testimony of Him and are strong and immovable will prepare a righteous generation of sons and daughters." This doesn't bother me because I think I'm one of those women who knows. Motherhood is powerful and influential--shouldn't that empower us as those who already understand the value of children and motherhood? She may not have directly said it in her talk, but we are already armed with the tools to bring up children in righteousness; we are already on the right track; we are already doing a good job because we are mothers who know!

10 comments:

Rachael Bishop said...

Jenny...

I completly agree with you. I was shocked to read what others were saying about Sister Becks talk. First of all, they should feel bad about speaking ill of the Lords annointed servant, but also it was a inspired talk. In a day when homemaking is made out to be degrading work, she stood up for the LDS sahm/homemaker. I know that as I have been keeping my house orderly and clean, I have often felt the spirit confirm to me that what I was doing was noble work. Not because my laundry was done, but because I loved my family enough to make sure our home was a home of order to help the spirit reside there. Thanks for your comments....I really am shocked at this reaction.

Elizabeth said...

What an inspiring talk. I just listened to it today (Monday afternoon) since I missed Sunday morning conference. Why did I miss it? Because I was taking my sick child to the doctor. In some ways I am a mother who knows. In other ways, I am a mother who is learning to know. (For anyone who worries, my child is feeling much better today after being on an antibiotic for 24 hours.)

And I appreciate your comments, Jenny. You said many of the things that I thought about as I heard the talk. I like patterning our homes after the temple. I think of Elder Ballard's talk about Gospel Centered Homes a year or so ago. And the article in the most recent Ensign about the quality required in the building of temples and how we can apply similar principles in our lives ("Worthy to Enter" by Elder Garn of the 70).

The Holy Ghost was strong for me as I listed to Sister Beck's talk. I mentally felt linked with a group of my sisters who also desire to be Women Who Know. I imagined us moving forward, arm-in-arm, supporting and encouraging each other. Thank you, Jenny, for motivating me to listen today, rather than later in the week.

The Skinners said...

Thank you for your comment on MMW. I too was very shocked at the reaction of so many women. I didn't come away with a feeling of guilt (even though there's much I could improve on) I felt inspired to do better.
I can't help but wonder if the same people who were so critical of Sister Beck would have been as critical if one of the brethren would have given similar remarks.
I wish that instead of feeling guilt or resentment from advice/counsel that was given that might have pricked the heart, those who came away with ill feelings would have just had a stronger testimony that those remarks were inspired and what was supposed to be said and if they felt lacking in some way, had the faith to ask Heavenly Father for help in that area instead of bad-mouthing the Lord's chosen servant in a manner befitting of a catty high school girl.

s'mee said...

Thank you Jenny, for what you originally wrote and for supporting what I wrote.

I think the biggest issue in regard to those who were offended or felt some other ill feelings about the talk goes in direct correlation to their Spiritual maturity or understanding.

No one can feel for us, we choose that ourselves, just as no one can truly offend us, we choose to be offended. To read how people leave the church over offense proves their lack of Spiritual maturity. No on can drive me from what I believe is true no matter how idiotic I feel they are, teach, speak or act.

We *should* be better. I feel it is what is wrong with society in general...apathetic towards edification and improvement. We thrive at the lowest common denominator, which is sad.

Heavenly Father knows that staying at home is both the easiest job and the most difficult; and the reward is a stronger family *that knows*.

dubya said...

AMEN! Amen to your words, and to the above comments. I'm a random, I hope you don't mind (linked through Janine & Eric), but I just had to tell you thank you, thank you thank you!

I had no clue that people were offended and are talking ill of Sister Beck's talk. I am seriously appaled at that thought! Her talk was my favorite of conference. (And I'm not even a mom yet). I think those who are talking bad or who are taking offense did so because they feel guilty that they do not have their priorities straight and are thus doing the only thing they know how to do. I saw her talk as such a strength, encouragement and as an uplifting message meant to instill confidence to the sisters of the church (and world really).

I love Sister Beck. I think she is perfect for the calling of Gen. Relief Society Pres. at this time. In this crazy world the women need a leader who is going to tell it like it is and who isn't going to mess around with nonscense or worry about hurting peoples' feelings or beating around the bush with the gushy, mushy bit.

It honestly makes me sick to know that people are taking bad about her message. I hope they realize who they're messing with! ;)

Once again thank you and sorry for barging in on your blog, but thanks! I hope you don't mind!

michal & david coombs said...

thanks for being so outspoken and positive, jenny. i loved reading your comments on the mormonmommywars blog. without being too critical or offensive, i think people hear and feel what they personally need. example: at the r.s. womens conference all i heard was family, children, nurturing (i am 27, have been married for over 3 years and have no children of my own). the next day in church we had a combo 3rd hour, the teachers were the 12-step missionaries from our ward. they said the r.s. conference was so good, making SOOO many references to sexual addictions. i don't think i ever heard those words spoken. anyway, what do you want to bet the Lord was speaking to me through his servants--nurturing a family is the highest thing we can do. i did also hear that we need to be educated mothers, which made me feel better about my decision to complete my bs. i remember leaving the r.s. conference feeling empowered--that yes, i can bear children when the time is right, and i don't need to be afraid of it, it's what i've been called to do. i don't remember feeling offended after the sunday talk, and i thought it had pretty much the same message as her r.s. talk. i do remember cringing at the line "faithful women have children". i thought, wow--that's a bold statement coming from the president of the women's organization whose majority members are single women. and what about all those couples who really are trying to have children and can't get pregnant?--that's going to hurt a lot of hearts and make them feel like they are unfaithful. my next thought was--does that mean i'm unfaithful because i don't have children? david is constantly saying we can start a family and i can finish school and things will "just work out", and i am constantly telling him i know i can't handle all of that. a new little baby is a lot of work! i really loved your comment on the other blog--faithful women having children doesn't mean biologically having children right this instant and stopping birth control and letting whatever happens happen, it's being a nurturer and following the Lord's direction when he gives it to you. do i want children? sure. am i terrified of starting a family? absolutely. do i believe i can do everything when the time is right? i'm not sure. but her talk did make me feel like i could try.

michal & david coombs said...

you know, i think her main point was to say that we are women who stand out from the world. in a world where cohabitation is condoned and starting families isn't the first priority, she pointed out that, as covenant women of the Lord, we follow HIS counsel--we are sealed in the temple, we bear children, we are faithful unto the Lord.
another thought--aren't talks approved by the prophet?

Mom said...

One of the things I thought about during the talk was that some mothers seem to think their job is to take their kids to soccer practice, music lessons, band camp, academic help sessions, and anywhere else they can fit into the schedule, not realizing that children and mothers need to be spending more time at home, investing in home and in each other--in a private, peaceful, spiritually nourishing way. Many--I dare say most--parents spend far more time teaching their children to be good at sports than teaching them to be good at serving.
I would not have imagined anyone would be offended by the talk. It was right on.

Frank & Elizabeth said...

Sometimes, the words of Christ spoken by our leaders will emphasize the disparity between our current course and the perfection that Christ has set as the standard.

Fortunately, the Lord has also given us direction on how to receive such counsel with contrite hearts.

Psalms 141:5, JST footnote:
When the righteous smite me with the word of the Lord, it is a kindness; and when they reprove me, it shall be an excellent oil, and shall not destroy my faith;

D&C 95:1-2
Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you whom I love, and whom I love I also chasten that their sins may be forgiven, for with the chastisement I prepare a way for their deliverance in all things out of temptation, and I have loved you--
Wherefore, ye must needs be chastened and stand rebuked before my face;


D&C 136:31
My people must be tried in all things, that they may be prepared to receive the glory that I have for them, even the glory of Zion; and he that will not bear chastisement is not worthy of my kingdom.

At any rate, we've searched, but we've been unable to find the scripture which says "If you're upset by something you hear in conference, blog about your gripe right away!"

Frank said...

Elizabeth and I have been re-reading the talks given in April 2007 Conference, and just got to Sister Beck's talk from the Young Women's session. It is titled Remembering, Repenting, and Changing.

In the talk, she says:
Sometimes people get casual about repenting. I have heard some people say that repenting is too hard. Others say they are tired of feeling guilty or have been offended by a leader who was helping them repent. Sometimes people give up when they have made mistakes and come to believe that there is no hope for them. Some people imagine that they will feel better about themselves if they just leave the restored gospel and go away.

Interesting that she mentions people "tired of feeling guilty", feeling there is no hope and wanting to give up, or being offended when a leader helps them to repent. That's almost prophetic.

She continues:
It is Satan who puts hopeless thoughts into the hearts of those who have made mistakes. The Lord Jesus Christ always gives us hope. He says:

"Thou wast chosen to do the work of the Lord, but because of transgression, if thou art not aware thou wilt fall.

"But remember, God is merciful; therefore, repent of that which thou hast done which is contrary to the commandment which I gave you, and thou art still chosen, and art again called to the work."

The easiest, quickest path to happiness and peace is to repent and change as soon as we can.


So, instead of feeling guilty and hopeless and taking offense at what is said by a Church leader, repenting and having hope in Christ will provide "the easiest, quickest path to happiness and peace." Seems a good opportunity to apply this principle in our daily lives.