It’s a Process

Naomi Watkins is the cofounder of Aspiring Mormon Women, a non-profit organization that supports and encourages Latter-Day Saint women’s professional and educational pursuits. Currently, she works as an instructional coach in a Title I high school in the Salt Lake City area, charged with improving teachers’ literacy instruction and students’ literacy skills. She earned her B.A. in English Education from Brigham Young University, a M.Ed. in Language and Literacy from Arizona State University, and a Ph.D. in Teaching and Learning with a literacy emphasis from the University of Utah.

Since my teens, I had wanted to serve a mission, and knowing that a mission was a worthy path, I submitted my mission papers a few months before my 21st birthday. I didn’t bother asking the Lord if a mission was for me. Serving a mission was a righteous desire, so why would He say no?

One week after submitting my mission papers, and with some prodding from my parents, I decided to finally ask the Lord if a mission was indeed my next step, and I received a pretty strong “No” as an answer. I felt that this answer had to be wrong, and so I asked Him again, and I received the same no answer. How could the Lord tell me no? I knew that I would be a stellar missionary, and I was more than willing and able to serve. I had sincere intentions; I wanted to serve a mission—and not because I had nothing better to do or wasn’t yet married. I was confused and hurt and angry. How could the Lord not want my service and sacrifice? How could He refuse me? [Read more…]

Clarissa Smith Williams

The 1920s signaled a shift toward “second generation” Mormonism. In 1921, the Relief Society received its first Utah-born president, Clarissa Smith Williams, just as Heber J. Grant had become the first Utah-born Church president in 1918. Few people could have been as prepared for the calling as Williams was: her mother, Susan West, married the church historian and apostle George A. Smith, meaning not only that Clarissa literally grew up in the midst of Church headquarters, but also that she had a lifelong association with Bathsheba W. Smith, George’s first wife, a counselor in the General Relief Society Presidency from 1888, and its president from 1901-1910. Bathsheba involved the precocious Clarissa (whose organizational skills led a brother to dub her, even at a young age, “the Little General”) in Relief Society work from an early age, and even predicted that one day she’d become its president. [1] Just like Mormon, Clarissa was a sober child and quick to observe. [Read more…]

Reframing Parental Roles in the Proclamation on the Family

Among other ideas, The Family: A Proclamation to the World, emphasizes the importance or gender identity and roles. For the purpose of this post, I will focus on several sentences that relate to the responsibilities of parents within the family as they rear children.  

Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. ‘Children are an heritage of the Lord’ (Psalms 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations…By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation…

In 1990 Relief Society General President Elaine L. Jack and her counselors Chieko N. Okazaki and Aileen H. Clyde met to decide their priorities for Relief Society. They outlined five points that would become the hallmarks of their presidency. The fourth read:

Strengthen families. Many types of families are part of the church today. All families need strengthening. 

Women of Covenant. Page 402  [Read more…]

Ethics of Criticism in the Church Redux-Sort of

Church culture generally eschews public criticism/correction with the principle becoming better outlined over the last 150 years or so. In post-1890 Utah, Church leaders were going through some growing pains over politics and the establishment of a two party system. To even out the voting pattern, they actively campaigned on the Republican side. The result was hurt feelings all around and worst of all (in President Woodruff’s opinion), flamboyant political rhetoric made it’s way into public discussions between Church leaders on the campaign trail. It took some time for this to dampen out and political views are mostly held incognito now – in terms of party. But places remain in the institution where criticism is leveled, anonymously mostly, at other Church members and sometimes it’s pretty virulent.
[Read more…]

Should tithing subsidize BYU?

Malcolm Gladwell recently ranked America’s best law schools when taking into account value for the dollar. Perhaps unsurprisingly, under this new rubric BYU ranked number two.  In the past, I’ve often noted BYU’s value with a sense of pride and admiration.  But this time, perhaps because I’m currently paying for another school, I began asking why: “Why is the tithing I pay subsidizing the costs of education for a small subset of Mormons?” [Read more…]

Why Mormon Mothers–Like Chinese Mothers–Are Superior

I grew up in a heavily immigrant neighborhood in the San Francisco Bay Area. My high school was minority White, with most students being 1st or 2nd generation Chinese and Taiwanese, or one of several other Asian nationalities in the mix. So when I saw this piece by Amy Chua in a friend’s Facebook feed, it really caught my eye: “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior”.
[Read more…]

To Boss or Be Bossed, and To Buy Things

Wendell Berry just read a draft of an essay on the economy at the Masonic Temple in scenic Salt Lake City. He’s a wonderful warm homespun intellect, and one of the many topics he covered was the shape of education. He quoted a friend as recommending that we have two majors in college instead of the one we have now (upward mobility). [Read more…]


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