The Learning of Their Fathers…

This thought really isn’t fully formed yet, so I hope it comes out alright. I’ve been working this morning on my proposal for the lesson plan initiative. Martin said he needed it to be “exhaustive,” like the terms of reference for a consulting project, complete with a vision statement, objectives, scope, deliverables etc…almost like a contract he could have all the stakeholders sign on to. Of course that naturally leads to a bit more big-picture thinking than tends to be helpful in such a project, but some of those big-picture thoughts have been interesting.

At one point in my ponderings, the first verse of 1st Nephi came to mind. For those of you less familiar with the Book of Mormon, the first writer is a prophet called Nephi whose father, Lehi led their family out of Jerusalem just before the Babylonian conquest around 600 BC. His record opens with this statement; “I Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father.”

I, too, have been born of goodly parents who have taught me well. The same is true of the youth I am working with here. Many of them come from wonderful, loving, hard-working families. And they have been taught somewhat in all the learning of their fathers.

But, what happens when that’s not enough? For many of these kids, “the learning of their fathers” does not include anything about sanitation in food preparation or animal husbandry, or the environmental consequences of traditional practices like burning garbage, or how to budget funds, or work with a bank, or behave in a business meeting. For some of them, it doesn’t even include a written language. To survive [let alone thrive] in the world, this generation needs more than the learning of their fathers.

This thought was initially a bit discouraging. It seems a little unfair that “goodly parents” who teach a child all they can would not be enough. Then I realized that the same was true of Nephi. There came a time when he needed more than the learning of his father, more than the second-hand account, the vicarious experience. And, when he did, God sent an angel to teach him.

We all know I am no angel. Still, it was a comforting—and inspiring—thought. One I am grateful for.

Heavenly Father loves his children, and when the learning of their fathers isn’t enough—as perhaps it never really is, and isn’t supposed to be—he provides a way for them to learn what they need. For me, he opened a door to study at a great university [complete with dozens of experiences I could not otherwise have afforded], I have met individuals who have taught me both explicitly and by example, I have had opportunities to work, and to serve, in capacities that stretched me and helped me gain and practice new skills and develop my talents. And, through the gift of the Holy Ghost, I am taught “somewhat” [here a little and there a little] in all the learning of my Father.

For others, maybe he sends a child-less uncle who pays for the education of his 3 nieces, or a devoted widow who plays grandmother to a whole neighborhood, keeping dozens of kids off the streets and doubling the graduation rate for the local middle school. Maybe sometimes he sends cock-eyed optimists with big ideas about changing paradigms and creating movements…Maybe he’ll send me.

Mismo.

Went to church again this week. It’s about an hour’s walk…un poco lejos, but definitely do-able…and the branch is lovely. It actually speaks to the strength of the church in South America that a town as small as Benjamin Aceval has a branch. Most of the service is in Guarani—and therefore virtually unintelligible for me—but again this week I was soothed and strengthened by the deep familiarity of it all. What a comfort to sing [or in this case, lead…I know, nuts.] the same songs, discuss the same scriptures [even picking up exactly where we left off in the States], partake of the same sacrament prepared and blessed by priesthood bearers with the same authority; knowing they are clean and worthy–facing their own diverse challenges with the same faith, praying to the same Father, thanking the same Savior, and feeling the same Spirit. It’s remarkable.

And here too, that question posed by the Israeli official at the opening of the BYU Jerusalem Center holds true; In a country, or even just a town with so many living hand to mouth every meal, where everyone is Catholic, but nobody really seems to believe it, where so many eyes are empty and so many hands hang down [that phrase definitely has taken on new meaning for me here…I don’t know that I have ever seen it like this before.] What are you going to do about the light in their eyes? What are you going to do about their carefully kept houses, their immaculate chapel, their neat if worn Sunday best, their smiles, the way they meet your eyes when you ask them a question, their gentle, respectful men, their capable women and their happy, confident children? I can see why the Church grows so dramatically here.

Still, as striking as it is here, I know the difference is just as profound in my own pais…makes me want to show it more clearly.

Thoughts on a “Women’s Pull”

I wrote this in response to leaders’ suggestion that our Young Single Adult congregation include the now-iconic “women’s pull” as part of our pioneer trek re-enactment“to help the sisters see how strong they are and remind them that the Lord will be with them through hard times in their lives.”


I am surrounded by highly capable women. Many of us have been on our own for almost a decade. Almost all of us have completed our education, many with advanced degrees. We have demanding, promising careers and many exciting possibilities open to us. Most, if not all, of us are quite sure we could comfortably provide for ourselves for the rest of our lives. The trouble is, I don’t want to. I feel torn. More than anything else, I want to be a wife and a mother. I want to be sealed to an eternal companion and experience the challenges and blessings that come with it. I have a testimony that those relationships are the source of the greatest joy—and potentially the greatest pain—in time and eternity. I yearn to be loved and to have someone to love and serve. I am not afraid of it. There is no part of me that doesn’t want it.

The Lord has assured me time and time again that he knows me and has a plan for my life. He loves me dearly—I feel that every day and know that his plan will be the best course for me, will bring me the most joy and growth in my life. I know I am not alone.

At the same time, I am painfully aware that there are simply not enough righteous men to go around. I know that many of the wonderful sisters I associate with will not have the opportunity to marry. That I may not. This is a hard reality. But there’s no use hiding from it, pretending I don’t know. The challenge for me is finding the balance between developing my own strengths and talents as an independent woman, embracing and finding the joy I know God will provide in the single life, and striving for, hoping for, preparing for life in a family. Sometimes I feel like pursuing “worldly” goals like professional achievement and community involvement is a lack of faith—that I could perhaps be telling Heavenly Father that I’d rather have that path. Sometimes I feel like throwing everything I am into searching for and preparing to marry an eternal companion would break my heart—like it’s just setting myself up for a disappointment I can’t handle.

What I am striving for is to somehow find the strength and grace to keep and nurture that most tender part of my heart—the part that desperately wants to be a wife and a mother—to keep it open and soft, protect it from getting hard or closed off by all the disappointments of dating, or not dating…while still pursuing worthy goals, developing myself as a person and as a “positive, contributing member of society”—finding joy in whatever role I’m in, making the most of it and loving it. It’s a very difficult balance for me.

It’s easy to be the strong one—to pull the handcart alone so to speak—not to need anyone but me and the Lord. If that’s all I had to do, I think I could face it without so much as flinching. The women around me are strong, capable and good. We know the Lord, we love him and trust him. We have learned to be strong—we’ve had to. And some of us, through years of hurt and disappointment have learned to be hard, that it’s easier to close off that tender place inside and learn to get by on our own.  The hard part for me is not being strong—it’s being soft, staying open to love through all the hurt and frustration along the way.

We did the women’s pull. But my Bishop’s wife read this to everyone beforehand.