I don’t know how, but I’ve managed to make it completely through Primary, Young Women’s and even my ward’s half-baked attempt at Seminary* with no idea how to study the scriptures. I read them. I read a chapter every night. I even began a re-read of the Book of Mormon on my own last year, before the Prophet’s challenge. I continually amaze (and confuse) my husband with my knowledge of the stories of the Patriarchs but it seems that’s about all I can do. Remember what happened to who and maybe sometimes why.

I try to study. Verses that confuse me are always checked in the footnotes but it seems like every time I look up one of those cross-referenced scriptures, I find a scripture that refers back to the one that confused me in the first place, with nothing made clear.

I have nice little crayons for highlighting passages. I’ve made myself a little color code and keep the key in my scriptures. (I’ve got a large print quad which I affectionately call “The Monster.”) I was working my way through D&C but ran into a 100 verse chapter. My nerve failed me and rather than slog through it all I started reading in the New Testament instead. Maybe it’s a reflection of my opinion of Paul (I opened up to one of his letters and have simply continued from there) but I haven’t hightlighted anything for weeks.

I feel that I’m going about this in a very haphazard way and I wonder… is everyone as mixed up as me? Or does anyone have any handy little tips to share?

*My ward was so small and the high schools so far away from the building that we didn’t have any seminary at all for a year. Then someone set up some kind of home-school seminary where we met at someone’s house before school and did worksheets. The crepes that Brother H made for us in compensation of the early hour were good; the worksheets… well, I think you can guess how enthusiastic we were about more homework.

A high councilman visited my ward last week and spoke passionately about a number of things.  One of the thing which struck me the most was his reprove about Conference.  He said many of us take it as a kind of "Mormon Holiday" and stay away.  I've been guilty of this myself and so this year I resolved to attend.  I didn't quite live up to my resolution but it's given me a perspective I didn't have before.

I went to both of the Saturday General Sessions.  The spirit there was one of peace and instruction.  It was wonderful to sit in the chapel and listen to the speakers.  I, who usually have to exercise iron will not to day-dream through talks longer than two minutes, felt their words slide into me as easily as water into a cup.  At the end I felt filled, uplifted and warmed.  I'm usually a bit of a chatter-box but when I came home I found I cherished the warmth and stillness I felt and wasn't ready to talk about it when my husband asked.

Sunday morning I rode to Conference with friends and felt all the same things as the day before plus the joy and gratitude of being able to hear President Hinckley speak again.  Truth be told, his health was one of my motivating factors for going in the first place.  I would be forever disappointed with myself if I'd let laziness deny me a last opportunity to hear him speak.  It was a great experience but despite my earlier resolve I went home with my ride after the first session instead of staying for the second.  Worse, I felt I should stay even as I walked out the door.  I was hungry and tired though and I missed my husband, so I talked myself into leaving anyway with the promise that I'd listen later on the internet.

Listening over the internet, though a blessing and a great help to those who cannot leave their homes, is absolutely not the same.  The spirit that I'd so treasured from the sessions at the stake centre wasn't there.  Though at the end I did feel some measure of it, it was and it felt like only a small part of what I would otherwise have enjoyed.  The temptation to editorialize, kibbitz or try to explain (i.e., render acceptable to my Catholic husband) the talks was strong; I had to decide to keep my mouth shut.  Not a bad decision to make but one I don't think I'd've had to make in a more reverent environment.  (My computer room is great for what it does but I must admit it makes a pretty lousy chapel.)

So in the end, I have become a convert to Conference.  From now on I will make every attempt to go.  Internet broadcasts are good but simply can't compare to being there.

Darying Young Mom recently asked people to name their single most favorite book.


Most favorite?

I haven't had my face out of book for more than an hour at a time since third grade.  Picking one was like trying to pick a favorite food.  I love them all but sometimes I'm just in the mood for this one; it doesn't mean I like the others any less.

So, while I put my thoughts together for some more substantial posts, here's a list of the books I love enough to keep.

"Misty of Chincoteague," by M. Henry.  Might as well start with the one that started it all.  I was assigned this in third grade.  I remember sitting on the couch as my mother tried to call me to dinner but I was too engrossed to move.  She said "We'll never see that girl full-face again."  She was right. 

"Merovingen Nights."  Actually a series of inter-connected short stories by C.J. Cherryh, Mercedes Lackey and others.  Fascinating "lost space colony" story with richly detailed culture.

"The Hedge of Mist," by Patricia Kennealy-Morrison.  Time was, my definition of a good book was one that had maps and glosseries.  "Hedge of Mist" is the end of a trilogy of King Arthur and has the distinction of being the only one, out of all the many, many, MANY King Arthur stories I have read, that has made me cry at the end.  Has the added bonus of NOT including the pathetic Lancelot cycle.

"Tam Lin," by Pamela Dean.  Part of the "Fairy Tales" series started by Terri Winding.  It's a novelization of an old Scottish ballad, set in a 1970-something Minnesota college.  This is one of my oldest favorites.  I remember reading it in high school and hoping that my college experiences would be like that.  (Er, minus confronting the Queen of Faerie.)

"Snow White, Rose Red," by Patricia C. Wrede.  Also one of the "Fairy Tales" series this one is a delightful mix of alchemy, human magic and the Faerie Queen's court set in Elizabethan England.  I found a copy at a discount bookstore at the beach and have counted myself lucky ever since.

"Rimrunners," "Downbelow Station," "Merchanter's Luck," "Tripoint," and "Finity's End," by C.J. Cherryh.  I've never cared much for Cherryh's fantasy books but I just love her sci-fi.  There's something smart, snappy and almost puzzle-like about her Merchanter's Alliance universe.  It's the best kind of sci-fi, it looks at the culture and the effects of the various technologies on culture and politics without bogging you down with techno-babble or long explanations of things that everyone in the book ought to know already.

"The Tale of Murasaki," by Liza Dalby.  Liza Dalby is the only Westerner ever to have become a geisha and she brings a wealth of cultural and historical knowledge to this novelization of the life of Lady Murasaki, the woman who wrote "The Tale of Genji."  "The Tale of Genji" is considered to be the first work of fiction ever and is to most Japanese as Shakespeare is to us Westerners.  (I.e, old, venerable, cultural heritage and full of language so archaic as to be nearly unintelligable.)  Mz. Dalby does a beautiful job of sketching Heian-era Japan right down to the poems the aristocracy used to communicate.

"Sister Light, Sister Dark," by Jane Yolen.  A wonderful weaving of novel, myth, legend and "historical essays."  An interesting world that comes complete with maps, lyrics and music.  Gotta love it.

"A Prayer for Owen Meany," by John Irving.  Nostaligic, transforming and riveting.  It's been mentioned elsewhere on the Bloggernacle as a Non-Mormon Mormon book and I have to agree.  I loved it so much that in my eagerness to recommend it to a friend, I just flat out bought a copy for her.

"Good Omens," by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.  A friend of mine loved this so much that in her eagerness to recommend it to me, she just bought me a copy and I can't say I'm sorry she did!  The cock-eyed view of things, the silly footnotes… it's hysterical.  Admitedly it's a very humanistic view of Armageddon but it's still a very, very good laugh.

"Papa Married a Mormon" and "Mama's Boarding House," by John D. Fitzgerald.  Frontier Utah life as told by a young man who lived through it.  Some of you may be familiar with the "Great Brain" stories.  This is the same author and these are the bio- and auto-biographical stories of his family growing up.  I'm not always sure of the timeline, though. Pictures and other things in these books indicate that John D. was born in the early 1900's but he also describes his father and the local LDS bishop crying with joy when Utah was admited to the Union in 1880-something.  Still, it's very interesting to read about that time and place.

"Saints" by Orson Scott Card.  LDS historical novel with polygamy.  Also with some shrewd comments on LDS with pioneer heritage.  Loosely based on the life of Eliza R. Snow and so well done that after I read it, I went through the hymnal looking for songs written by the heroine.  Again, it's very interesting to read about that time and those places.

"The Lord God Made Them All" and others by James Herriot.  I just eat up these stories of veterinary life in rural England around WWII.  There's so much appreciation for the little things in life, gentle humor and decent people.  Not every veterinary visit in the stories is a success but it's still a feel-good series.

"Sherwood," "The Hero and the Crown," "The Blue Sword," "Deerskin," and "Beauty" by Robin McKinley.  These are all lovely books.  "Beauty" is and always will be my favorite version of "Beauty and the Beast."  There's something about the characterizations and descriptions that make her books a delight.  The narration too is funny, light and interesting.  Unfortunately, McKinley's later books have a tendency to end in magic sequences so odd I think "this must be what a bad drug-trip is like."  The magic endings make sense in "The Hero and the Crown," "The Blue Sword," "Deerskin" and "Beauty" but in "Rose Daughter" and "Spindle's End" I can barely understand what happened, let alone why it was supposed to have had the effect that it did. 

"Chicks In Chainmail," edited by Esther M. Friesner.  Cute and funny collection of short stories poking fun at the idea of the bronze bikini-wearing warrior girl.  Continued in other books like "Did You say CHICKS?" and "The Chick is in the Mail."

"Hellspark," by Janet Kagan.  My mom picked this up for me at a yard sale on the off chance that I'd like it.  Somewhat to my then-teenaged chagrin, she was right.  Talk about poly-glot!  A gorgeous cacophony of different cultures, languages and body language with a good stiff dose of suspense and mystery.  A truley wonderful sci-fi book that never pales no matter how many times I read it.

(My husband is now teasing me for not including the Book of Mormon but this is a list of novels. As wonderful and inspiring as the Book of Mormon is and as grateful as I am to have it, it's just not the same reading experience!)

I’ve had this for so long I’m not sure where I got it anymore.  I found it again recently and thought it’d be fun to share.  As a side-note, I took great glee in teaching my ESL students in Japan to say “domestic engineer.”  (And I’m sorry J. Stapley, I WILL get to that review of “In Sacred Loneliness” but my book has gone A.W.O.L. on me…)

Just a mother… HA!

A few months ago, when I was picking up the children at school, another mother I knew well, rushed up to me. Emily was fuming with indignation.

“Do you know what you and I are?” she demanded.

Before I could answer – and I didn’t really have one handy – she blurted out the reason for her question.

She had just returned from renewing her driver’s license at the County Clerk’s office. Asked by the woman recorder to state her “occupation,” Emily had hesitated, uncertain how to classify herself.

“What I mean is,” explained the recorder, “Do you have a job, or are you just a . . . ?”

“Of course I have a job,” snapped Emily. “I’m a mother.”

“We don’t list ‘mother’ as an occupation. ‘Housewife’ covers it,” said the recorder emphatically.

I forgot all about her story until one day I found myself in the same situation, this time at our own Town Hall.

The Clerk asked: “And what is your occupation?”

What made me say it, I do not know. The words simply popped out.  “I’m. . .a
Research Associate in the field of Child Development and Human Relations.”  The clerk paused, ball-point pen frozen in mid-air, and looked up as though she had not heard right. I repeated the title slowly, emphasizing the most significant words.  Then I stared with wonder as my pompous pronouncement was written in bold, black ink on the official questionnaire.

“Might I ask,” said the clerk with new interest, “just what you do in your field?”

Coolly, without any trace of fluster in my voice, I heard myself reply, “I have a continuing program of research [what mother doesn’t] in the laboratory and in the field [normally I would have said indoors and out].  I’m working for my Masters [the whole family] and already have four credits [all daughters]. Of course, the job is one of the most demanding in the humanities [any mother care to disagree?] and I often work 14 hours a
day [24 is more like it]. But the job is more challenging than most run-of-the-mill careers and the rewards are in satisfaction rather than just money.” There was an increasing note of respect in the clerk’s voice as she completed the form, stood up, and personally ushered me to the door.

As I drove into our driveway buoyed up by my glamorous new career, I was greeted by my lab assistants – age 13, 7, and 3. And upstairs, I could hear our new experimental model (six months) in the child-development program, testing out a new vocal pattern. I felt triumphant. I had scored a beat on bureaucracy. And I had gone down on the official records as someone more distinguished and indispensable to mankind than “just another. . .”

…Or, to be more specific, guilt is Catholic.

 I admit that I haven’t read the post about Mormonism and guilt.  I’m not very interested and mostly confused by it to be honest.  I’ve always thought of the Catholic church as the one with a big investment in guilt.  I don’t understand why the blogger feels that Mormonism runs on guilt.  My experiences with the church’s teachings have always been very positive.  We’re human, we make mistakes.  God’s plan for us is to learn from our mistakes.  That’s what repentence is for.  That’s why we’re not supposed to judge others and why we’re supposed to love each other as ourselves and have compassion.  Repentence and compassion are what I hear taught at church.  Not guilt.

(Two posts in one day… and here I was worried I wouldn’t have much to post about…)

 You, or some of you, already know me as harpingheather.  I’ve been posting on a number of your sites (notably FMH, Silas Grok and Millenial Star) for a few months now.  There are a couple of reasons that I’m using a different name here but mainly I just love the new name.

Welcome to my blog.  I will be exploring LDS history for the first time, digging into my own roots as I do genealogy, sharing thoughts and begging questions on life, the universe and everything.  I look forward to hearing all of you.  (Except for trolls.  I have a +5 Spear of Lightning for them.)

Next on the agenda: a review of Todd Comptons “In Sacred Loneliness.”

Maybe the ward I grew up in wasn’t that good at its visiting teaching.  Whatever the reason, I have no idea how to visit teach.  The RSP in my ward gave us these nice little guidelines but they don’t answer the questions I have and now that I’m in Primary I’m never in RS to ask.

 I realize that this is the kind of thing to vary from teacher to teacher and visitee to visitee but… just what exactly are we supposed to do?  How are we to deliver the message?  My companion has no more idea than I do.  Do we chat for awhile then give the message and leave?  Are we supposed to write out a lesson with questions and activities?  How does one turn the selection of quotes in the visiting teaching section of the “Ensign” into a lesson?