She didn’t say that you should keep your home as clean as the temple. She said that women should pattern their homes after the Lord’s house because growth happens best in a house of order. She did say that homes should be a pre-MTC in the sense of teaching children doctrine.
She did not say that women need to wear pantyhose. She said that women “who know” honor ordinances and that that can be seen in women who, even though they rely on dusty roads and public transportation make an effort to present clean, well-groomed children to sacrament meeting.
She did not say that LDS women are the best mothers in the world, or the best housekeepers. She said that LDS women should excel at upholding, nurturing, and protecting families. She did say that they should be the best homemakers in the world, but the context was of claiming power and influence.
She did not say that women should be perfect housekeepers. She said that mothers “who know” choose very carefully and do less, including less consumption and fewer activities. She said they do not try to choose it all (and, presumably, there should be no guilt as part of the decision not to choose some things).
She did not say that LDS women are or should be domestic servants. She only discussed housekeeping under the subheading of nurturing, and all of the videos in that section showed women either cleaning alongside their children–or teaching their children to clean–as part of that nurturing role. She also said that “mothers who know” are selective about their involvements so they can maximize their influence.
She did not equate mothering with housekeeping. She equated housekeeping with nurturing and also talked about mothers as leaders and teachers.
She did not say that cleaning was the end-all, be-all of motherhood. She said that part of nurturing is creating an environment for spiritual growth and then used various household tasks as examples of ways to teach children values.
She didn’t say anything about being a full-time mother.
I can understand why this talk pushed a lot of buttons, but some of the comments made about the talk at various websites show scant resemblance to what President Beck actually said and are not at all productive in our discussions of the important issues that she raised. Please go to byu,tv, Sunday morning 10am conference, 55 minutes in, and re-listen to the talk, perhaps writing a rough outline as you go, before you comment here or anywhere else on her talk.
My take on the talk:
(1) Kristine’s post about it over at BCC is much better than mine will be.
(2) I’m thrilled that so much attention was given to mothering–and not the “we’re all mothers so love up those nieces and nephews if you don’t have your own kids” kind of mothering.
(3) At first I was irked that she didn’t include any non-house-work examples under her definition of “homemaking”, but then I realized that that was only part of her talk and that she references leadership and teaching at length elsewhere.
(4) I think she could have avoided some misunderstanding if she had better fleshed out the “best” language: I am sure she didn’t mean it as a slight against non-member mothers or as a guilt-inducer for members. (See TftC for more on this.)
(5) The entire talk was bookended by the larger theme of transmitting faith and testimony to the next generation.
(6) I am pleased with the emphasis on having children (something she also mentioned last week at the RS meeting)–I do think the heresy is creeping into some quarters of the church that children are optional or at least delay-able and I think that that is a shame.
(7) I’ve been complaining for years that the general thrust of messages to women in the church is “you’re doing great–keep at it!–don’t pressure yourself” There is a real subcurrent in the church of women not striving to want to do better. An example: at a HFPE about cooking, one of the sisters expressed that she wanted to do better nutritionally by her family and was instantly shouted down with a chorus of “give ’em a bowl of cereal!” and “fish sticks never killed anyone.” She asked for help in doing better and was made to feel like a fool for wanting to “raise the bar.” There is a time to comfort the afflicted and a time to afflict to comfortable. I’m glad to see President Beck speak twice in a week to afflict the comfortable.
(7) Her section of leadership was actually a little radical–consult most sources and they’ll tell you that men should be leading out in family prayer, scripture study, FHE, etc. Pres. Beck said that mothers “who know” are leaders in these areas–as equal partners with their husbands.
Transcription of the talk here:
I am not surprised that many others are also finding the talk much less controversial when they re-read it.
I choose to parse so obstinately specifically because I realize that the initial, emotional reaction to SO many things fades once I focus on the actual words that have been said. Thanks, Julie, for such an analysis.
As I was home taking care of a business crisis today during the morning session, I was struck by how so many commenters simply couldn’t be hearing and contemplating the talk being given at the moment since they were busy discussing a sentence they had just heard – sometimes still from the previous talk. This forum is wonderful in many ways, but there are negative consequences, as well.
She did not say that husbands and fathers have any responsibilities at all.
She did not say that there are more important things for third-world families than wearing white shirts to church.
She did not say that women had any value except in being a mother.
TT, have you ever tried to give a comprehensive talk on any particular subject to millions of very different people – in such a way that not one person misunderstands or is offended? If not, please cut Sister Beck some slack. She didn’t say about 3,000,000 things she might have said; why focus on those and not what she actually did say?
Thanks Julie. You are such a voice of sound reason.
Thanks. And so true about your point #6.
TT, her talk was about mothers. Do you complain if Pres. Hinckley doesn’t say anything about tithing in a talk about temple work?
I appreciated that the entire talk was about motherhood: if mothering is important as they say it is (and I believe it is), then devoting an entire 8 minutes to it occasionally is not out of line.
I believe that answers your first and third objections.
As for your second, she wasn’t speaking hypothetically or prescriptively, she was speaking of a specific example of a real third-world family who actually had made the effort to dress “their best” for sacrament meeting and she was touched by it.
P.S.–We’ve lived in this house 6 months. We needed the iron on Friday (for an art project). I had no idea where it was. It occurred to me that it may have been lost in the move. But I wasn’t crying with guilt over Pres. Beck’s statement about children in ironed clothes–I saw it as a lovely example of one way that a mother emphasized the importance of the sacrament to her children. I have other ways of doing that (like telling them they won’t get their fruit snack if they don’t be quiet RIGHT NOW). I am really amazed at some of the thin-skin-ed-ness of some commenters (not you, TT, but others). She was giving some lovely examples, not saying that everyone in Nigeria has to buy an iron.
Julie, thank you, thank you, thank you. I have been so discouraged about the discussions today, and this has lightened my heart a bit. Wonderfully done.
So I may possibly have been a little tired as I wrote this post, as evidence by the fact that it has two (7)s. Let me then add a (9). Or whatever.
I wish that she had said something explicit about *interior* preparation for ordinances in addition to her examples about *exterior* preparation (i.e., grooming). She may have assumed that we would assume that, and I for one would give her the benefit of the doubt on that. But apparently many in the audience did not.
Very well stated. Best post I have read yet on this talk. Thank you.
Julie and Ray,
Her talk was about all of the things that I mentioned either explicitly or implicitly. I am not making a judgment, just pointing out other things that she also didn’t say, in line with the post. If you are going to defend her on the basis of implicit claims she is not making, why not look at the implicit claims she is making?
Ray, if I were going to rebuke the women of the church all over the world about their ironing habits and the financial hardships they might face by having more children, I’d pay pretty close attention to the things that I were saying and try to offend as little as possible. Remember, her advice about the need to have as many children as possible isn’t going out to suburban mom’s with their Lexus SUVs, it is going to those moms in Africa and South America who live in one-room houses with 6 kids already.
Bravo, Julie. You took the time to describe what I only alluded to in my comment under Beck and Call.
Now, if only we husbands can catch a bit of her vision and help make it happen in our homes. I do plan to watch her talk again, uninterrupted.
I\’m pleased to see another positive, supportive post about Sister Beck\’s talk. Thanks.
“her advice about the need to have as many children as possible”
I hope it was clear that the real point of my post wasn’t my own opinion about Pres. Beck’s talk, which opinion is worth what you paid for it. The point was that I am really disappointed in the bloggers and commenters who have misrepresented the talk. The statement I quote above from TT is a misrepresentation. Here is what Pres. Beck actually said:
“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 Godâ€™s commandment for his children to multipy 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 â€“ not possessions, not position, not prestige â€“ are our greatest jewels.”
I didn’t see boo in there about “as many children as possible.”
As for the rest of #11, you seem to miss my main critique: Pres. Beck should be allowed to talk about mothering without talking about fathering, much as any other speaker would be allowed to talk about repentence without talking about family history work or whatever. She defined the topic as mothering. Not women. Not parenting.
Julie, great post. I did not find anything controversial with Sister Beck’s talk either.
TT, did we watch the same talk? Rebuke about ironing??? have as many children as possible???
To make #14 clearer, it would indeed have been insensitive to announce a talk about “women” and then talk only about “mothers,” as if women who aren’t mothers don’t exist. (And at the risk of mote-hunting, there was one speaker yesterday who said something about “your wife and children” and I growled a little because then I realized that the talk wasn’t for my ears.)
In the quote that you give from her talk, what provisions does Sister Beck provide for a woman to say that she has had “enough” children? I don’t see anything that would permit a woman to decide to not have any more children. I don’t think my interpretation is unfair.
I agree with you wholeheartedly. I thought it was an excellent talk.
Yes we did. Mothers who know iron their children’s clothes. Mothers who know have no reasons to stop having children. Children are like jewels, you can never have enough!
TT, indeed we did.
TT, I don’t believe it fair to put the burden on a speaker to give the entire gospel program in 8 minutes. I imagine that she thought (and is right to think) that most church members have, at least, access to True to the Faith, which provides the one true mechanism for deciding about adding children to the family.
Again, she has the right to define the parameters of her talk. And mentioning the value of children doesn’t require her to discuss info that the audience should already know about legitimate reasons to limit the number of children.
I think that if I were speaking on a topic, I would be sure that what I said was in accordance with TTtF. I don’t think that I really am burdening any GA to give up-to-date doctrines.
Before you spout off about President Beck and childbearing, you might want to know her own family was limited to 3 (for reasons I don’t know, nor care too). Why does it seem women are fair game for criticism? Why not raise the same quesitons about what the prophets have said about having children? She was quoting or paraphrasing them. This isn’t new, off-the-top-of-her-head stuff.
TT, she didn’t say anything that disagreed with TTtF. I think you are expecting something completely inappropriate from a speaker. If someone mentions the importance of paying tithing, are they required to talk about what to do about student loans and stock dividends? If they talk about family history, do they need to teach the audience how to load PAF onto a MAC? She has every right to speak about a general principle without your assumption that she is teaching something contrary to the doctrine of the church (which “as many as you can” certainly would be) just because she doesn’t go into details about exceptions and limitations.
Julie #22, I suppose that I am the kind of person that considers the implications of any particular statement that I hear. I am not saying that she doesn’t have the right to say whatever she wants. It is her calling and not mine. I support her fully in that calling. At the same time, one of the standards of a good talk is one that can anticipate potential criticisms, demonstrate an awareness of the critical issues surrounding the topic, and address them preemptively.
TT, I for one am glad that she didn’t try to list every loophole or exception to her theme. We know those. She identified a particular problem – saints who have forgotten, or never been taught, about the role of having children – and she addressed it.
Just so you will know my inclination on things like this, I think the Proclamation on the Family does not need such a ghastly written line as, “Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation.” That line is not prophetic. It reeks of committee-speak and afterthought. Fortunately, President Beck’s talk had little of that. I believe it was from her individual heart and soul.
mmiles and Julie (24-25),
I don’t think that there can be any doubt that she is arguing that LDS women should have more children than non-LDS women, since she is comparing the gospel culture to the culture of the world. While the quote from ETB says that people shouldn’t delay having children, Beck makes the issue of children a numerical one. Perhaps you are right that she has no obligation to explain the upper-limits of that numerical imperative, but I don’t think that it would be inappropriate for her to demonstrate some critical awareness of how she might be heard. Should the African LDS woman have 8 children if the average in her culture is 7?
TT, I do think it likely that a speaker with more experience would have been able to give the same talk as Pres. Beck but with a few well-placed disclaimers that would have diffused about 90% of the firestorm reaction (honestly, after 5 years of blogging, I’ve never seen anything like this and we haven’t even gotten to the Monday morning quarterbacking yet).
At the same time, the misrepresentations and uncharitable reading of her talk has been so disenheartening to me. She’s new on the job. (This is her first real GC talk as RS Pres., no?) I think part of sustaining a leader–especially a new one!–is to be a little more charitable in interpretation than most of us have been. I don’t think Pres. Beck thinks that one needs to wear an ironed white shirt to be worthy to attend church in “the poorest places on earth,” so why do we react to her talk as if she taught that? It is one extrapolation of her words, yes, but if we don’t think she believes it, then why can’t we choose a more charitable extrapolation of her words that fits equally well with the actual words?
Taken directly from the gospel library on lds.org under the topic of birth control:
“Children are one of the greatest blessings in life, and their birth into loving and nurturing families is central to Godâ€™s purposes for humanity. When husband and wife are physically able, they have the privilege and responsibility to bring children into the world and to nurture them. The decision of how many children to have and when to have them is a private matter for the husband and wife”
How does this last sentence square with take #6? Is the option of delaying children really heresy? If done purely for selfish reasons, it is wrong to delay but determining what is a selfish reason is pretty subjective. That seems to be left up to the couple to decide.
I think that line from the PoF is precisely its mark of prophesy. Otherwise, it is not universal. Otherwise, the PoF becomes a useless document in my life because it doesn’t apply.
I completely agree with your first paragraph. That is all that I am expecting. As for the second paragraph, she isn’t new to church leadership. She came form YW presidency, right? I am sympathetic to giving a charitible reading to her talk. At the same time, I don’t think that people should be silenced who want to think through some of the more controversial statements she made solely on the basis of giving her a break. In the end, she is more than a person, but a representative of my church and I think that people should be able to discuss it. That said, in that discussion, there should be plenty of discussion about what are fair characterizations and what are unfair characterizations.
Again, she is claiming something more that the ETB quote. ETB makes a statement about delaying children, while Beck makes a claim about the numbers of children that LDS women should have in relation to their non-LDS peers. I find such a claim to be questionable doctrinally, given the TTtF statement that the numbers of children that LDS families have is solely their responsibility to determine. When GA start telling families to have more kids, it confuses the official doctrine that the number of children I have is none of my leaders’ business.
TT, The substance of that line from the PoF is okay, but I find its wording jarringly legalistic. Again, I think we already knew that, but if added, I would prefer something more personal, like President Hinckley’s, “Just do your best.”
TT, I don’t see the numerical comparison at all. She said “having children” and not “having more children.” She set “having children” (what we do) in opposition to the cultural trend of “not valuing children” not in opposition to “having fewer children.” While I agree with you that people should be free to discuss and hash out her thoughts, I think it is important to be charitable. I think assuming that she meant a numerical comparison (which we all agree would be contrary to church teachings) when she didn’t say that is uncharitable.
I don’t think that leaders should ever make assumptions about what we already know. When they make unqualified statements, they don’t allow for any room for qualifications. Qualifications shouldn’t be assumed. Again, I think that the height of prophesy is being able to speak to those qualifications. Anyone can make uncompromising assertions. Prophets make space for all of God’s children’s experiences.
“I donâ€™t think that leaders should ever make assumptions about what we already know. ”
That’s the kind of thinking that gets us conference talks that all sound like the first discussion, and then everyone complains about how boring and redundant it is. They just can’t win.
“Prophets make space for all of Godâ€™s childrenâ€™s experiences.”
Well said, as I believe God does the same. I hope that my comments did not sound uncompromising. Thanks for the exchange. I’m off to sleep.
I hardly think that my reading is uncharitable in the sense that I am somehow trying to deliberately alter her meaning. You may think my reading is inaccurate, but I assure you that I have no lack of charity for Pres Beck.
As for whether she is making a claim that LDS women should have more children that non-LDS women, the line in question is: “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.”
The accusation that the “cultures of the world” don’t value children is sandwiched between two statements that claim that LDS women desire to bear children and believe in having children. It seems that the only logical meaning of “children are becoming less valued” is that these cultures don’t believe what LDS women believe, which is that it is valuable to have children. I think that any other reading than a numerical imperative to have and bear children in contrast to the world who don’t have and bear children is deliberately misconstruing her.
I think that we already agreed earlier that a few caveats to universal statements can go a long way. You can say a lot more than the first discussion and the most basic principles if you are willing to think critically enough about the topic to address possible objections or exceptions.
I am off to sleep too! Thanks for chatting with me you all!
“The accusation that the â€œcultures of the worldâ€ donâ€™t value children is sandwiched between two statements that claim that LDS women desire to bear children and believe in having children. It seems that the only logical meaning of â€œchildren are becoming less valuedâ€ is that these cultures donâ€™t believe what LDS women believe, which is that it is valuable to have children. I think that any other reading than a numerical imperative to have and bear children in contrast to the world who donâ€™t have and bear children is deliberately misconstruing her.”
I disagree completely. I see no numerical imperative here. None is expressed, certainly, and I do not see where any is implied. I think she is taking on the idea that having children is not a valuable pursuit compared with things like possessions and worldly accomplishments. Especially when she herself had only three children it seems silly to suggest that these words mean that a woman in Africa with seven children ought to have eight. It’s just not there. Period.
Thanks for this post. I’m rather amazed and saddened at how folks are prone to jump on something said, give it the worst possible reading, and then take offense. The idea of charitable reading — to give a speaker the benefit of the doubt with respect to motive and to figure that if something seems really outlandish and repugnant in what is said, perhaps we ought to assume that the speaker/writer didn’t mean it that way — seems lost on many. This is true not only with respect to Sister Beck’s talk, but the talks from Church leaders in general. We are too quick to make a person an offender for a word.
Generally speaking, when you see this kind of a reaction, that does mean that there was something wrong with the talk. Maybe the way she delivered it, maybe the words themselves. But if you haven’t seen this kind of reaction before from people who don’t generally react this way, then something is wrong with the talk.
BRAVO! After reading Peggy Fletcher Stack’s little piece in the Trib, I was grateful to come here and see your defense of our General Relief Society President.
Thank the Lord for women like Julie Beck who will talk the straight truth to Latter-day Saints. As for the women on Times and Seasons who disagreed with President Beck, the Book of Mormon speaks clearly to them, “Wherefore, the guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center.” I suppose that now the question is: Will they be righteous enough to “hearken to the truth and to give heed unto it”?
Sister Beck spoke the truth with love and conviction. My wife’s response was, “It’s about time someone finally dares to stand and speak truth!”
I agree that the talk becomes more palatable after sleeping on it. I hope Sis. Beck outgrows her “best” phraseology soon, because it’s neither helpful nor necessary to talk about motherhood in a way that connotes measurement or comparison.
The thing about her talk that was most strange to me was her insistence that if a woman will not be a mother in this life, she should still prepare to be a mother in the next. How in the world does one do that? Can anyone recommend any good books or parenting classes to prepare women for post-mortal motherhood?
Or something was right with it.
As noted by many, my interpretations of Pres. Beck’s talk softened after I read a transcript. But, the fact that the few paragraphs of material that, upon first hearing (and upon reading and re-reading until I gave it the most charitable interpretation I could muster), did imply that housekeeping was exactly and totally equivalent to my job as nurturer (as well as other troubling sentences that have been mentioned), makes the talk a problematic one. If you lose your audience before you get to the ‘good parts’ you have been an insensitive speaker.
I also noted that she had no problem making sure she talked about fathers in her talk about mothering when it came to leadership in the home, but handily neglected to mention their possible contribution to housekeeping :)
Yeah, DE, that was a very unusual part of the talk, and I had to read it a few times to see what she was saying. I think the purpose was just to bridge the gap to the women who are not currently mothers. She was saying: just because you are not a mother now, don’t tune me out; Hannah became a mother after years of fasting and prayer and even if you’re not a mother in this life, you can still be a mother in the next life, and your preparations will not be in vain. I think she’s saying that preparing for mortal motherhood is the same as preparing for post-mortal motherhood.
“housekeeping was exactly and totally equivalent to my job as nurturer”
Yeah except that, again, is not what she said. Sad that people are taking it that way.
BTW, I just read Tanya’s transcript of Pres. Beck’s talk, and it reads a lot better than it sounded. I think Pres. Beck needs a formal group of apologists to explain and defend her, a la FARMS or FAIR.
Double D (#44), is your name designed to enhance your credibility among the males of the bloggernacle? I don’t think any amount of surgeons in Beverly Hills could give your self-righteousness and condescension the “reduction” procedure they need.
Thank you, thank you, thank you. I was very discouraged by the initial responses to Sister Beck’s talk. As someone who is constantly struggling with keeping my home organized I appreciated her words not as a condemnation but as encouragement that it is worth my effort to improve. As with all GC talks, I will incorporate into my life the points that resonate with me, ponder those that don’t and remember that I cannot run faster than I have strength when I feel guilty for not doing it all.
This will probably come off wrong, but is it possible that at times we go into these situations looking to be offended. When I read back over some of the talkback from yesterday it seemed like impossible standards were being applied to many of the speakers and when there was doubt in the meaning of something that was said, the most uncharitable reading was taken first, rather than the charitable one that says these people love us and are doing the best they can in their own limited ways to teach us the gospel principles that they hold dear.
MCQ, as I noted in my comment, after rereading, I realize that she did not say that housekeeping was the sum total of my role of my nurturer, but it was an easy assumption to make:
“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.”
Nurturing=homemaking, homemaking=cooking, washing and dishes, therefore, nurturing=cooking, etc.
The word ‘includes’ does leave open the possibility that homemaking (and by extension nurturing) is not limited to housekeeping. But, since she goes on for several paragraphs exclusively about housekeeping, it is not an unreasonable way to interpret her words upon first listen.
“honestly, after 5 years of blogging, Iâ€™ve never seen anything like this”
Julie, where have you been?
We get this kind of reaction to at least one talk almost every conference. Wasn’t it Dallin H. Oaks’ talk last year or something like that?
#7 TT, her talk was about mothers. Do you complain if Pres. Hinckley doesnâ€™t say anything about tithing in a talk about temple work?
The trouble is, I think the roles of mothers and fathers don’t exist in isolation: they must depend upon each other. Are fathers ONLY supposed to provide for their families, and mothers ONLY nurture? As a man, my problem with so-called “traditional” gender roles isn’t necessarily that it keeps women down or forces responsibility on me that I don’t want. My problem is that it doesn’t allow for the overlapping responsibilities that necessarily happen (and SHOULD happen) in many families. Dads SHOULD help with housework and child-nurturing, and Moms SHOULD know about their family finances and spiritual welfare, and both parents should be prepared to handle the other’s responsibilities if necessary.
This isn’t revolutionary thought: we’ve heard it in other talks, and it’s even implicitly in the Proc. on the Family. But I think any talk on the role of mothers which doesn’t also suggest that mothers can do their jobs better when they get fathers involved–and vice-versa–is a broken talk. As a husband who does nearly all of the housework due both to my particular family situation and my wife’s unwillingness to help out, I fully sympathize with any homemaker who receives not only ingratitude, but little (or useless) help in her home duties.
For the record, I didn’t find this talk offensive, just–clouded of mind.
Whoops, the first part of my post (after #7) was quoting Julie.
Markie: I still think you’re getting it wrong. I may be totally off, but my read is this:
She didnâ€™t say that nurturing = housework. She is actually elevating the housework that you do to the level of â€œnurturing.â€ Like this: Nurturing = Homemaking. A part of homemaking is housework. Therefore, when you are doing housework, you are really nurturing your children.
It may not be a big difference, but I think it’s a difference that matters. She’s trying to make housework important and inspirational, not make all nurturing just housework.
Dan#50: Those are my initials.
Why would they somehow make me more credible with the men?
Dan wrote, “your self-righteousness and condescension”
————And what is it that you are doing?————–
I simply agreed with truth and gave a scripture to think about for those who didn’t like Sister Beck’s words of truth.
… and that’s the way it is.
DD: A sense of humor is a nice thing to have around here. Where did you leave yours?
#58: Ms. Cute Q
I’m still trying to figure that one out.
God bless you. :o)
i.e., Dan was making a joke DD.
TT, at the risk of being incredibly offensive, which I do not mean to do, are you listening at all to what Sister Beck ACTUALLY said – and what Julie and others have said? Your comments read as if you are stuck 100% on an emotional rant about what you FELT she meant – and that you can’t let go of that and admit she didn’t actually say that.
You are doing to her precisely what you claim (incorrectly) that she did to women – and I haven’t sensed one iota of recognition of that fact. One misquote, I can understand; multiple mis-quotes smack of intentionality.
If you would like to discuss what I ACTUALLY said instead of your own baseless emotional rant against me, I would be happy to respond. Where did I intentionally misquote her? The basis of this post is that we should be so happy because look what terrible things she didn’t say! Yipee! If we are going to praise the talk for inferences she isn’t making, why not look at inferences she is making?
Just out of curiosity, if other public leaders like the US Presidential candidates gave a talk that made a lot of people angry, would we be obliged to give that person the benefit of the doubt even when we know that there will be no clarifying comments, or are we just obliged to give the most “charitable” reading for GA’s? Do we have a different standard of public rhetoric for different public figures?
TT (#63), I sincerely hope that we have a very different standard for elected officials than we do for general leaders of the church. For starters, I don’t expect Pres. Beck to be used to having every syllable dissected and parsed and don’t think it fair to hold her to that standard. (And I do think that much of this firestorm could have been avoided had she delivered the same message but with a few disclaimers or caveats.) But I do think that someone running for elected office should be prepared for the parsers and cynics and spinners.
Just for some comparison, here’s how the Deseret News summarized Sis. Beck’s talk:
Sister Julie B. Beck, general president of the Relief Society: Women in the church can be like the mothers of the Stripling Warriors whose story is recounted in the Book of Mormon. The young men were successful in battle because they had been taught “by mothers who knew.” Mothers who know bear children, honor sacred ordinances and covenants, nurture others, lead in equal partnership with their husbands and teach. They may also “do less,” not allowing unhealthy media use in their homes or the distractions that diminish good family life.
My last response to you, TT:
#11 – “if I were going to rebuke the women of the church all over the world about their ironing habits and the financial hardships they might face by having more children” – She didn’t do either.
#11 – “â€œher advice about the need to have as many children as possibleâ€ – She never said it.
#20 – “Mothers who know iron their childrenâ€™s clothes. Mothers who know have no reasons to stop having children. Children are like jewels, you can never have enough!” – All mistatements.
#23 – “I would be sure that what I said was in accordance with TTtF.” – Nothing she actually said was not in accordance.
#26 – “one of the standards of a good talk is one that can anticipate potential criticisms, demonstrate an awareness of the critical issues surrounding the topic, and address them preemptively.” – An impossible standard for an 8 minute talk. I promise you can’t meet that standard. I have spoken publicly in front of large groups for 20 years. I can’t meet that standard.
#28 – “While the quote from ETB says that people shouldnâ€™t delay having children, Beck makes the issue of children a numerical one.” – No she didn’t.
#32 – “Beck makes a claim about the numbers of children that LDS women should have in relation to their non-LDS peers.” – No she didn’t.
#35 – “Prophets make space for all of Godâ€™s childrenâ€™s experiences.” – Tell that to gay Mormons.
Almost every comment you left here contained at least one mischaracterization or distortion. If you want to throw those types of bombs, at least have the decency to back them up with actual quotes that match your assertions.
“I appreciate the commenters who are willing to back away from their previous negativity on re-reading the talk.”
I want to echo this. I’ve seen at least a half dozen comments to that effect, and I think it shows a real humility and commitment to truth to rescind a previously critical reading.
#44 Double D–I found your comment so laughable! How can a single-parent or single woman take Sister Beck\’s words as the \’truth\’ when they cannot–by most means–make them come to pass?
CP, I asked this on the other thread and never got a response: With the exception of having children and being an equal leader with a spouse, what did Pres. Beck say that a single parent cannot do? Please answer using her exact words.
“Single-parent” does not a single MOTHER make.
Just because you assert that she didn’t say those things doesn’t mean that she didn’t. to group them:
1) On having more children: I provided a fair reading of why she is saying that LDS women need to have more children than their peers in #38, your assertions to the contrary. If my reading is correct (an no one has disputed it), then the implications of her talk go against TTtF.
2) on ironing: she said: Mothers “who know” bring their children to church “in clean and ironed dresses with hair brushed to perfection; their sons wear white shirts and ties and have missionary haircuts.” What she actually said is much worse than how I paraphrased her.
3) On the standard about the impossibility of massively not offending people in 8 minutes. I think that we are just going to disagree that it is impossible to speak for 8 minutes without making people cry. I am sorry that you don’t possess this skill, but I have seen it done millions of times. There were no other talks in GC that had this affect, which leads me to believe that it is possible to speak for 8 minutes (or longer) without offending people.
I provided a fair reading of why she is saying that LDS women need to have more children than their peers in #38, your assertions to the contrary. If my reading is correct (an no one has disputed it), then the implications of her talk go against TTtF.
Assume that your reading is correct, how would this be contrary to TTfF? If gentile birthrates are scandalously low, and we have reason to believe that much of this is because a devalution of children, then we can reasonably say that ‘women who know’ the real worth of children will on average have more children than their non-member peers without saying that women must have a set number of children or have as many children as they are biologically capable of having.
“#26 – â€œone of the standards of a good talk is one that can anticipate potential criticisms, demonstrate an awareness of the critical issues surrounding the topic, and address them preemptively.â€ – An impossible standard for an 8 minute talk. I promise you canâ€™t meet that standard. I have spoken publicly in front of large groups for 20 years. I canâ€™t meet that standard.” -Ray
Fair enough, but by definition, a good talk is one that seeks to communicate clearly and not to be easily misunderstood, as well. As an experienced speaker, I’m confident you try to recognize where you might be misunderstood and take some pains to avoid it.
I haven’t read President Beck’s talk, I’ll do so, but surely, I’d bet, she will be concerned that it has occasioned considerable distress among some faithful members. Which brings me to a question:
Do you think President Beck meant her talk to be provocative – cause public controversy, or simply extol an ideal and sustain those striving toward it? How would you express what you think her goal was?
Finally, somebody help me here, what obligation do LDS women have to apply what she has counseled?
Excellent post Julie. I loved President Beck’s talk and think it was divinely inspired. Too long we have been riding the self-esteem wave and lauding the views of the “Oprah Mormons” while becoming complacent in our views and lifestyles. “All is well in Zion, yeah Zion prospereth.” The following quotation comes from a non-LDS source but I think also illustrates what President Beck was saying in her talk:
“Schmidt-Brabant likens the modern home to a temple, center of the New Mysteries. In years past, the centers of spirituality were places guarded by special individuals, priests. Now, as humanity moves toward the possibility of greater and greater individual human freedom, each of us can be our own priest and our temple is our home. Central to this is the homemaker who cultivates, to the best of her abilities, a home atmosphere which allows the people in it to approach their destiny questions. Schmidt-Brabant feels that the role of the homemaker is the absolutely essential humanizing role in society and asserts, “The homemaker is standing at the point where something is changing, where something must change, if our whole civilization and culture are not to be lost.” The picture of the home as sanctuary is critical.” ” (The Christopherus Waldorf Curriculum Overview for Homeschoolers by Donna Simmons on the book “The Spiritual Tasks of the Homemaker”)
Yes, homemaking is power and as Beck said women who “know” what is coming in the next fifty years realize this and wish to prepare their children. As women do we really believe true fulfillment will come from garnering the praise and accolades of society? Are my “needs” or material gain really the most important thing? Isn’t the mission of the Relief Society service? And what better service is there than to create, build, and sustain loving and nurturing families?
The stewardship of children is the holiest of callings and one that is not honored in our modern day civilization. Nurturing is an art that is slowly dying and one that is necessary for the health of not only our children and families but society in general. Of course men should nurture as well-but more often women have that task and we should be glad of it and welcome it because it IS power, it IS important. Even ironing a shirt or cleaning a toilet bowl can be a privelege if we realize we are doing it in the service of the Lord. There are no small or unimportant tasks in life-just smallmindedness.
TT, good morning. One suggestion. Quote Beck without paraphrasing and without omitting a few words here and there. It would save a lot of disagreement, and error.
She did not say, “Mothers who know bring their children to church in cleaned and ironed dresses…” (my quote of your paraphrase)
She said, “Mothers who know honor sacred ordinances and covenants.” She then gave an example of people who dress well despite hardships.
A question for anyone. What do you think of the efforts of those mothers she mentioned who make those efforts on Sunday morning? Admirable? Misguided? Foolish? Cult like?
“Finally, somebody help me here, what obligation do LDS women have to apply what she has counseled?”
Had she gone out on a limb with some innovative doctrine, I think we could dismiss it with, “well, she isn’t a prophet.” But there isn’t a theme in her talk that you couldn’t substantiate with something a prophet has said, and so I think it would be reckless to disregard her talk.
“A question for anyone. What do you think of the efforts of those mothers she mentioned who make those efforts on Sunday morning? Admirable? Misguided? Foolish? Cult like?”
I don’t think I can answer without knowing specifics of the situation. If they went without food to buy the white shirts, then it was foolish and cult-like. If they went without a trip to the zoo to buy the shirts, then it was admirable.
I don’t iron my kids’ Sunday clothes. They usually look a little rumpled. I have deliberately made a decision that my time could be better used elsewhere. This is a good opening for anyone who is interested to criticize the time I spend blogging.
I’m Adam G. and I endorse Julie Smith’s post.
I appreciate the commenters who are willing to back away from their previous negativity on re-reading the talk.
I do not appreciate those who admit that initial reactions were overblown but blame Julie Beck for the overblown initial reactions.
My wife who works hard to cook, clean, and to manage the cooking and cleaning of the rest of us–not that our home is perfectly in order, of course–so we appreciate that Julie Beck appreciates that sort of thing and doesn’t dismiss it as superficial or trivial.
I’ve backed away from feeling bad about Sister Beck’s talk, but primarily out of a realization that it will not affect my life in any significant measure — I am already a fantastically nurturing guy, married to a spouse who is bar none the most wonderful homemaker in the world.
That said, I am having a hard time telling what’s best about the comments — those who call on naysayers to repentance and gnash on the sinners like the devil’s chaw, or those who insist that Julie Beck is Satan incarnate and an insensitive boor. Both sides are so refreshing and so inviting!
All the talks in conference were very direct. Iâ€™m thankful that she didnâ€™t pussyfoot around the subject. that weâ€™re great, and we can do itâ€¦ bla bla. She gave very specific examples and things to target. Who could ask for more, make a list, check it off. If you donâ€™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 Lordâ€™s guidance to reach women, with, as shown at all these blogs, was a desperately needed message.
Trying to say she wasnâ€™t speaking to men is silly. Men heard it, do you think all the parenting of our childrenâ€™s souls is the womanâ€™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.
gnash on the sinners like the devilâ€™s chaw
Are you accusing me of violating the Word of Wisdom? Faugh! I’ll have you know I gnash on sinner’s like the devil’s t-bone steak — uh, in winter or in times of famine.
Thanks for the post Julie. As usual, you say exactly what needs to be said succinctly and insightfully.
“This is a good opening for anyone who is interested to criticize the time I spend blogging.”
Julie, mothers who know blog with one hand and iron with the other. Don’t try that with shaving your legs, however.
How can a single-parent or single woman take Sister Beck\â€™s words as the \â€™truth\â€™ when they cannotâ€“by most meansâ€“make them come to pass?
You can’t be serious! Have you never recognized the truth of a talk or a lesson that didn’t describe your present circumstances to a T? You never took note of a talk about marriage when you were single, or advice for dealing with teenagers when your children were still babies, or helped with a Humanitarian Services project without having survived a tsunami yourself? Your heart never responded to a talk about the resurrection while you’re still mortal, or resolved to clean up your life while you were in the midst of serious sin? Heaven help us (quite literally) if we can only know the truth of something we are currently mastering!
The “make them come to pass” language is a phoney qualifier as well — an infertile woman cannot *make* motherhood happen, a divorced wife cannot *make* her straying husband repent, a grieving woman cannot *make* her loved one live again — yet we can all believe in the truth of the Atonement that will *make* all blessings available to the faithful.
I don’t usually frequent the bloggernacle; however, after President Beck’s talk yesterday, I came away a little distraught–and I thought I would see what other people had to say!
I was over at my mother’s house when President Beck gave her address–and while our husbands enjoyed it, the two of us came away with a general feeling of guilt and resentment.
Upon reading these comments, I realize that a lot of what offended me was due to the fact that I listened through my own narrow biases. I have determined to apply a much more charitable reading to what she has to say. I have enjoyed her talks in the past–appreciate that she speaks with confidence and authority–and am sure that she did not intend to offend anyone. In fact, I would imagine that if even the smallest portion of this kind of negative feedback has reached her ears, she feels awful. Which makes me sad, because I know she’s just doing her best, and I want her to succeed!
I mean, it’s gotta be tough to be a woman in such a high-profile leadership role in the Church. You’ve got one group that doesn’t want to listen to you because you don’t “hold the priesthood” and therefore can’t have much of value to say (in their minds, anyway)…
And then you’ve got other groups that think you should represent all women, at all times, in all circumstances–and nit-pick everything you say as a result! Tokenism is such a bummer, isn’t it?
Thanks for your post, Julie, and to everyone else who commented kindly and respectfully. You helped me “see the light!”
I’ve been thinking a lot about this. I think Sister Beck was telling the women who feel like all they do is clean stuff that they are not just housekeepers, they are really homemakers, that their sacrifices are meaningful. In fact, I think her talk was empowering towards women.
On another note- What responsibility do we have when others are offended by our words. If Sister Beck was sincerely trying to teach gospel principles that she believes are right and true, in a way that she believes is uplifting, is she responsible for the offense taken by others?
Go, Ardis P. Go Katie.
Thanks! I feel like a domestic slave sometimes! It’s nice to see that elevating housekeeping to homemaking makes it a “meaningful sacrifice”.
I too, was somewhat softened on my second reading of her talk, but am still troubled by much of it.
I believe my more charitable reading of it the second time was largely due to the fact that I did not have to view graphics of a woman with windex in her hand whilst hearing President Beck speak of \”nurturing.\” Graphic representations greatly affect our cognition or interpretation of the meaning of spoken words. Would I have been so offended the first time if the graphic was of the savior or a mother praying with her children?
Hmmm…probably, but it might not have stung quite so much.
You’re right- the hyperventilating on both sides is quite a spectacle. Look at #80: The Wheat is being separated from the Chaff here. That’s a comment I usually make around noon on days when I start my morning eating buckwheat waffles; it’s crazy to see it being used in this context.
The talk really looks significantly better in print, the day after. Looking past delivery and phraseology to get to the speaker’s intentions is an effort that has allowed me to call Boyd K. Packer my favorite apostle, so I think I’ll just have to add that extra layer of processing to Pres. Beck’s talks in the future.
I think some of this controversy is rooted in the fact that people want to feel like Pres. Beck understands and appreciates the variety of experiences and feelings in the Church on these issues, and she conveyed none of that. I hope, as Julie hinted, this is a rookie error on her part.
I loved this talk. Do I do everything she said? No way. Do I want to? Yes, I do. I want to be a better mother, a better homemaker, a better person. I am SO GRATEFUL to be given the respect of having a challenge issued to me, instead of just being told how wonderful I am as a woman. Sister Beck speaks truth, and though I could easily look around my cluttered house and “take her truth to be hard,” I would rather humble myself and receive her words in the spirit of love with which she delivered them.
Thanks for the great post, Julie.
My wife said something that was echoed by a grandmother on another blog. My wife served as a YW Pres. when Sister Beck was he General YW Pres. and absolutely loved her. Here is her take on the talk:
Sister Beck has spent years speaking to YW – those who are approaching motherhood. I think this talk was meant more for those who need to commit to have kids and to commit to honor motherhood and to commit to value making a house a home and commit to doing the best they can to be the best mothers they can be.
I hadn’t thought of that, but I like it.
My mission president’s wife had been General Primary President. When she was asked to speak at General Conference, she was so nervous she asked if she could go to the Tabernacle and practice. She somehow managed to get permission to go down to the Tabernacle and practice her talk by herself.
Even iron ladies find it difficult.
My advice to President Beck is don’t let the guilt weigh you down. Thanks for speaking at General Conference.
…and by the way, I liked the talk, and so did my wife. She felt like cleaning this morning. I found this interesting.
i agree with BJW. sister beck may have said some really great things. but because of the way she phrased them and the image of a women cleaning her windows all i heard was you are a not a woman if you are deficient in cleaning skills.
Something tells me that Sister Beck is not feeling too guilty after her talk. Rather, I would guess, that she is grateful that the Spirit helped her present such a powerful message that, it seems, the general membership of the church needed to hear at this time. My guess is also that she is grateful for the fact she could deliver that message with such grace and fortitude. Ancient truths need to be dusted off sometimes. They’re still true.
My wife came away from the talk wanting to be a better wife and a better mother to me and to our kids. I trust many felt similar promptings lending the only credence to Sister Beck’s message that is in any way necessary.
I get the folks that are angry, upset, etc. about the talk. That is your right and I see a lot of honest efforts to figure it all out in this thread. But to somehow impugn Sister Beck or somehow think that Sister Beck feels any guilt whatsoever about her message seems to me to be stretching it a bit and is probably not the most productive response to her message.
90, 96: The woman [i]and a child[/i] were cleaning the window together in the video. Imagine them having an important conversation at the same time. Housework and nurturing can go together.
housework and nurturing go hand in hand? life and nurturing go hand and hand. playing with your kids, learning with them, speding time with them and nurturing go hand in hand. why is there such a focus on housework? maybe i dont understand what the word nurture means but i am pretty sure it has nothing to do with cleaning.
Good question, Tammy. I think she should act as if she’s responsible and we should act as if we are.
Kids need to learn how to work and to contribute to their family environment.
Thank you for posting this. I haven\’t read all 100 comments above mine, but I just wanted to say that. I stumbled upon fMh a few weeks ago, and have thus acquired a slight addiction to the bloggernacle. I was one of those who felt somewhat belittled and sad by Pres. Beck\’s talk, and was working my way through it when I read your post. Your ability to see the other side is what I needed to hear.
“the image of a women cleaning her windows”
The woman was not cleaning her windows–she was teaching a young boy how to clean the windows. I draw two things from that:
(1) NB it was a boy, not a girl. She wasn’t saying cleaning was women’s work.
(2) It is likely that after a few more lessons, that mother will not clean her windows again. She’s a manager of her home, not a domestic worker. She’s a teacher, not a laborer.
As for #99, have you actually read the talk? Because Pres. Beck had a whole laundry list–cleaning, laughing, singing, reading, etc. of activities that go along with nurturing.
I donâ€™t see why you are extrapolating numbers from her statements. I also donâ€™t think that in general she is referring to people with several children as not valuing them. She is referring to â€œsome culturesâ€. It is far more likely that this includes North America and Europe than sub-Saharan Africa. No?
And how do you get a mother making her children look nice for church as meaning we should all have children who look perfect? She was providing an example of a motherâ€™s outward expression of her faithfulness.
â€œThe thing about her talk that was most strange to me was her insistence that if a woman will not be a mother in this life, she should still prepare to be a mother in the next. How in the world does one do that? Can anyone recommend any good books or parenting classes to prepare women for post-mortal motherhood?â€
I donâ€™t find this strange at all. It is an intricate part of our doctrine that our goal is to become parents in the next life. It we be extraordinarily unfair of God to provide only mortal parents with the necessary experience to be parents hereafter. Although it appears parenting in mortality is an ideal way of gaining attributes to be a Heavenly Parent, surely other ways exist. Are we not able to also learn patience and charity by our very being with others in this life?
Working in the yard and around the house has been a great time for us to learn and spend time together.
That was precisely her point, nm: housework need not be just drudgery, it can be part of the divine calling of nurturing our children. just like all those other worthwhile things you mentioned.
#97 My understanding is that our church leaders try very hard not to offend, and that it does bother them. The mention of guilt was a bit of a play upon some of the responses to her talk.
Every speaker wants to have a “meeting of the minds” with their listeners. But, if you want to twist what I said to mean what you want it to, go right ahead.
Thanks for your post, Julie. I haven’t read many of the comments above, but I was very dismayed by the negative reaction to the talk yesterday. We are so quick to take offense sometimes. I loved your post.
i think its hard to argue that anywhere in that talk the message was anything but cleaning is womens work. well womens and childrens. i dont remember anything that says men and women while doing chores can nurture their children. or hey fathers when you are doing the dishes with your kids its a great opportunity to nuture.
yes she listed other activies. but the focus was on being a homemaker. which, i believe is cleaning, cooking,etc.
julie. i didnt read the talk but i watched it (obviously).
Any conference talk that can create this much discussion must be deemed a success. President Beck’s address was one of my wife’s favorites of the conference. She mentioned that she felt emboldened in her decision to be a stay-at-home mom and that she shouldn’t feel the need to apologize for that decision. To anyone who feels offended by any of the talks from this past weekend, I would remind you of (or introduce you to) something that Elder Oaks said at the CES Fireside for Young Adults on May 1, 2005, in Oakland.
“Now, brothers and sisters, if you are troubled about something we have just said, please listen very carefully to what I will say now. … If you feel you are a special case, so that the strong counsel I have given doesnâ€™t apply to you, please donâ€™t write me a letter. Why would I make this request? I have learned that the kind of direct counsel I have given results in a large number of letters from members who feel they are an exception, and they want me to confirm that the things I have said just donâ€™t apply to them in their special circumstance. … As a General Authority, it is my responsibility to preach general principles. When I do, I donâ€™t try to define all the exceptions. There are exceptions to some rules. … But donâ€™t ask me to give an opinion on your exception. I only teach the general rules. Whether an exception applies to you is your responsibility. You must work that out individually between you and the Lord. … In what I have just said, I am simply teaching correct principles and inviting each one of you to act upon these principles by governing yourself. Brothers and sisters, it has been a thrill to be with you. I pray that the things that have been said this evening will be carried into your hearts and understood by the power of the Holy Ghost with the same intent that they have been uttered, which is to bless your lives, to give comfort to the afflicted, and to afflict the comfortable.”
WHETHER AN EXCEPTION APPLIES TO YOU IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY. YOU MUST WORK THAT OUT INDIVIDUALLY BETWEEN YOU AND THE LORD.
Our church leaders have spoken. Now it is our responsibility to humble ourselves and learn from God which of these messages we need to work on over the next six months. There are no “one size fits all” answers to a church body as large and varied as the LDS are today. We all find ourselves in different circumstances. So we shouldn’t get bent out of shape when every conference message didn’t seem somehow tailored to our individual needs.
I really enjoyed Sister Beck’s talk, especially the part about doing “less” in order to focus on what matters most. As a single man who grew up in the church, can generally get a date when I try, and has never been unable to pay my (always modest) rent, I feel the talk condemns me as much as it condemns anyone. I actually have worked hard to realize the treasures she describes, but so far I haven’t managed it. I appreciate Sister Beck’s reminder of what should matter most to me, and appreciate Julie’s clear sense on this topic.
Sister Beck\’s talk was fantastic. She is a special lady whom we should all admire and learn from. We are in the same stake and she and her husband gave great talks to the YM for their Recognition program.
She is real and down to earth. She is not pretentious and will take the time to speak with anyone who approaches her.
I believe her words were those that we all needed to hear.
It saddens me when people look for offense in comments by those who speak in Gen. Conf. That is a mentality that I will never understand. Often times I feel like someone is speaking to me specifically. Like in last Gen Conf the talk on patience. I need to read that talk every day but am I offended, heck no. I learn from it and do my best.
People are looking to take offense as Elder Bednar has referenced. It\’s human nature. What you do with it is our spiritual nature and will either lead us to Christ or take us away from the iron rod.
Good counsel, Alan (108).
I’m relieved that some others didn’t find Sister Beck’s message as stifling and alienating as I did.
I listened to it twice yesterday and read over it again today, and it bothers me even more, not less, in written form. I think the plain meaning of what she says is that the worth of a Latter-day Saint woman is determined by how many children she has, how clean her house is, how well she does dishes and washes windows, and how clean and neat her children look. That just leaves me completely out in the cold, assigns zero worth to me as a person. I’ve learned that groups who do that are abusive, and I should avoid them at all costs.
On the other hand, the messages of Elder Oakes, President Eyring, President Hinckley and others from this conference did the opposite. They reinforced my feeling that every one of us is a child of God, of inestimable worth, with great and vital work to do to build up the kingdom and establish Zion. So I’m going to listen to those messages and ignore Sister Beck’s. That is simply the most charitable thing I can do. I had such high hopes for Sister Beck. They are entirely dashed.
I am first generation LDS. I have raised our eight children the way sister Beck encourages mothers to raise their children. As a mother, I have no regrets. I have conducted my life the way sister Beck encourages LDS women to conduct their lives. As a woman, I have no regrets. No life is easy. No family is perfect. I am satisfied that living this way is the safest and wisest way to get through this life. The voice of the world is loud. Sister Beck’s voice was louder yesterday, louder and clearer. She left no one wondering. I loved it.
107–I find this to be a pretty narrow view of the talk.
105–You’re follow up shed light on your (good) intentions and I wasn’t trying to twist your language. But I think some here have this idea that maybe, if they write with sufficient vitriol, Sister Beck will feel guilty for her talk. And my point is that comments like that from Carole Knowles hit the target on why Sister Beck will walk proudly from her talk yesterday.
And I am amazed that a talk that expresses confidence that women in the church will stand to successfully uphold, nurture, and protect families is somehow discouraging. This talk was simply a pep talk and a reminder to get out and be a great mother. Much like the talks we hear time after time as men telling us clean up our minds, provide for our families, and yet be home and fulfill our callings, etc., etc. It’s all challenging. But these general authorities, appointed by God, get that and work to reaffirm our efforts.
I watched this with my husband and thought, “oh, here we go.”
Without reading the comments (sorry, guys, I’m at the library, and the house is a mess and I haven’t planned dinner and Bill will be ticked off if I don’t go home soon), you know, 20 years ago hardly anyone in my neighborhood worked. Women, I mean. We were almost home during the day, we looked out for each other’s kids, we did 100% visiting teaching, it was a pretty cool neighborhood. We fixed dinner for our families, had family home evening,etc. all the stuff she said.
Now, it’s a different world. Almost everyone works, our neighborhood is a ghost town during the weekday. Visiting teaching, what’s that(I got released and quit nagging)? Dinner? Pizza hut, or frozen pot pies. Family home evening? Nobody does it. I applaud those mothers whose families hold strong despite all the pressures on women in the present day, but I sort of mourn that time when all our families were young and we still had our innocence.
I guess the only thought I had during her talk was of course she was speaking in generalities and those who truly are forced into circumstances beyond their control and can’t meet the standards she speaks of, will again feel slighted and misunderstood. I wish they’d add a caveat, like a sentence on the bottom of the screen like CNN does: we realize it’s impossible to be perfect and we applaud all sincere effort. We in no way wish to hurt the feelings of mothers who are doing their damnedest and failing anyway.. ……..Britney Spears again wrecks her car…….etc.etc.
I also appreciated her dig at consumerism, though the two of us are not untainted by it.
#116 Fair enough. I personally would find it disheartening to deliver a talk I had prepared only to have it misunderstood. In the spirit of nurturing, I view President Beck as a woman anxious to nurture the sisters within her stewardship. As such, it is my belief that she wants to speak by the spirit, and be heard by the spirit, so that all can be edified. Quite clearly, that ideal has not been met for a number of posters on the various LDS blogs. In effect, as a bystander to all of this, the best I can offer is my support for the woman who delivered the message with, in my opinion, the best of intentions, and for the women seeking to understand that message with open hearts. Prayerful consideration of the talk will yield the best results regarding what the Lord seeks for an individual.
With that, maybe I’ll exit this discussion, as it is not my own.
That’s an inspiring comment, Carole Knowles.
annegb, you rock.
I look forward to the added sense of self-righteousness that people like Carole will derive from this talk. I am sure that at some point soon my wife will come home crying because of comments like that.
The meaning apparently isn’t as ‘plain,’ Tatiana, as you think it is.
I want to apologize. My comment was too harsh. I am sure that you were a wonderful mother and are a great person. I just get frustrated that many people don’t realize how hurtful comments like those can be. They divide the women of the church by passing implicit judgment on those who are unable or desire to make different life choices. I would like to see the women of the church less divided and less judgmental of each other.
Thank you, Julie, for this essay. Though I was initially concerned about the “best” terminology for the same reasons you noted above, I have MUCH MORE strongly felt a call to action behind her words. I feel inspired and motivated the more I think about her talks (Sunday’s and the General RS Broadcast). I hope your efforts at describing what she did NOT say will appease some of the nay-saying going on. I agree with Chris #118, that “Prayerful consideration of the talk will yield the best results regarding what the Lord seeks for an individual.”
Despite comments that people have made on the internet to the contrary, Sister Beck’s talk in General Conference yesterday did not center around her partial definition of “nurturing” that referenced practical homemaking skills. It was so much more than that. And yes, she did tout an ideal. May I never lose sight of the ideal regardless of my failures. Too often, I think, we take offense at the ideal as though it were some sort of radioactive poison to be avoided at all costs. To the contrary, a comparison to the ideal, along active response to the gentle (or not) persuasion from the Holy Ghost, will get us closer to it. Hooray for ideals.
“Thatâ€™s an inspiring comment, Carole Knowles.”
I am not as passionate about this topic as some appear to be, so forgive me for seeming that way in my next comment. To me Carole’s comments seemed rather smug, instead of inspiring. I don’t think she meant them to be smug, however.
Which goes to my point. Sometimes it is not what is said as much as how it is said. I also don’t think Sis. Beck realized how her word choice came across to quite a few people. If she had, I think she would have worded things a bit differently.
Thanks, Julie. Well said.
Hmm…I didn’t even think there was anything wrong with Sister Beck’s talk when I heard it, and only have JUST now become aware that people were offended. I don’t think Sister Beck has anything to apologize for. Even if her word choice wasn’t as articulate as, say, Elder Holland’s might be, it’s not hard to understand the ideas she was trying to communicate, not to feel the spirit of her words. I’m not a mother yet, but her talk makes me excited to try my hardest to help my future children in any capacity I can.
(And besides, ladies, at least we don’t get drilled EVERY conference like the men usually do in the Priesthood session. Nothing against men, but I just don’t see them react as harshly to talks about abuse or pornography.) Hope this all came out right…
If we embrace all life choices, TT, in a way we embrace none. And, it must be said, how it makes people feel isn’t the only criterion for what should be preached.
Re 128: I think that the men don’t really complain because there’s absolutely no question that pornography and abuse are not good things. I think that many of the complaints over Sis. Beck’s talk are over feelings that her tough words were off target, not that they were tough.
I think that the men donâ€™t really complain because thereâ€™s absolutely no question that pornography and abuse are not good things.
A lot of people do question pornography being a bad thing. Some of them are even on the bloggernacle though, thankfully, they are few.
Re: 131. Yeah, I tried to cover my rhetorical bases by saying that pornography is a not a good thing, not that it is a bad thing :) Though I personally am in definite agreement with you on this, Adam!
#130 – I think men don’t complain as much because we, as individuals, are used to getting kicked in the teeth for things of which we personally are *and* are not guilty. For example, Pres. Hinckley spoke Saturday night about anger – something with which I have very little problem. It was directed at husbands and fathers – both of which I am. I know I am ok in that regard; I know others need to hear it; I’m cool with that – largely because I’m used to it and largely because I am not very sensitive to perceived criticism anymore. It’s been beaten out of me, in a way.
Men in the Church, in general, have been scolded and chastised and told to be better and do better in so many ways so many times that many of us have lost much of our tendency to be insulted and offended over another general admonition. Women in the Church, in general, are not addressed as bluntly and harshly as men are, so many of them are more sensitive to the type of beatings we get regularly – even when they are merely perceived and not intended.
It’s a two-edged sword: continue to be praised and complimented and treated as “special” or accept the bruisings we get as equal partners. It’s not an easy choice, and the decision won’t be unanimous. Fwiw, I think a balance – like Sister Beck’s and Elder Oaks’ talks – is better than either of those alternatives alone.
Oops; forgot to change the name from my wife’s setting for #133. Sorry, Babe.
Sonny, people need to take responsibility for their reactions instead of blaming them on Sister Beck or attacking commenters who support her.
As a faithful male member of the Church, I must say I am amazed at the number of \”Lemmings\” in the Church. Julie Beck\’s talk was poorly done. It caused more harm than good according to me and many of the people I have discussed it with.
Adam, I so want to revile the revilers, but I will control the urge. Thanks for the reminder.
Sonny, people need to take responsibility for their reactions instead of blaming them on Sister Beck or attacking commenters who support her
Adam, no argument from me on that. However, my point did not have anything to do with assigning blame, but just to point out that word choice can make a difference between a talk well received and one that falls flat, and I say that without regard to Sister Beck or the the subject matter. Just a general statement.
Hope this is not taking this thread in the wrong direction, but when preparing a talk (any talk let’s say, not limited to a conference talk), how much responsiblity is on the speaker to consider the sensitivities of a given subject and make a sincere effort to not offend? Conversely, how much responsiblity is on the listener of the talk to get past any initial perceived offenses and give the speaker the benefit of the doubt if the wording is not to the speaker’s liking?
Sonny, it depends on the talk and the audience. That’s one of the problems with setting identical standards for different situations – and why those who castigate Sister Beck for not being sensitive to each and every listener are doing to her and those who needed her talk exactly what they are railing about her doing to them. The central message seems to be, “Others might have needed what she said, but I didn’t – so shame on her.”
Elder Bednar’s talk on offense was brilliant. I’ll defer to him on that one.
What’s wrong with Lemmings, anyway?
Sonny, as I said about, a few well-placed caveat and disclaimer sentences would have taken the wind out of the sails of 90% of Pres. Beck’s critics. At the same time, I know that because I’m a blogger and a writer and a former debater and the mother of three future lawyers (“You didn’t say to put my church clothes on–you just said to find them!”) So I’m used to the parsing and dissecting game and write and speak to avoid problems. It is unfair to expect a brand-new RS president to do that and uncharitable to pretend that her writing should stand up to the scrutiny of a campaign speech or a tax bill.
142. Understood. However, let’s broaden your statement a bit further.
I personally feel that today’s conferences have far fewer ‘call to repentance’ talks than conferences from 20-30 years ago, for whatever reason. The tone today, to me, seems much different….more of an encourangement, a counsel, to be better.
Do these talks today have less of an impact than ones that ‘call to repentance’ on the same topic that seemed more common previously? If so, do you feel the GA’s are somehow watering down their talks, or do you think there is sound rationale behind the changed tone and delivery?
I am not saying that Sister Beck’s talk an ‘old fashioned’ call to repentance. I did not get that at all from her talk.
Sonny, Jacob’s message (BofM Jacob) was, essentially, that prophets tailor the tone of their messages to the spiritual condition of those they are addressing. We get some encouragement, but we also get some serious butt-kickings – and those kickings have been administered semi-annually for many years. Men get more of the latter than the women do. I don’t think anything gets watered down – especially after listening to this GC.
Sonny, word choice–qualifying everything–can remove a lot of the impact. I suspect that its probably not possible for Julie Beck to appease all her various constituencies while trying to bear the witness she wants to bear.
“She equated housekeeping with nurturing”
Hmm, I’m late to the party but I will chime in as one who find equating housework with nurturing ….odd and a disturbing. If, that is, the former is seen as the sum total of the latter and not just one small component. The diction of a portion of President Beck’s talk led me to initially believe she entirely conflated the two, but all the chatter on the ‘nacle actually has helped me come to peace with the paragraph which left me and so many others agog. I still would never equate housework and nurturing or agree to such an equation, but as I noted on FMH in the homemaking thread, I suppose housework can contribute, rather than constitute, nurture inasmuch as it sustains the corporeal half of the soul. Cooking decent meals and keeping the raw chicken juices off the counter make a healthy body, which helps engender a healthy soul. I didn’t get that from Sister Beck’s talk, but I DID get it from the ensuing discussion. So thanks to everyone on all the posts, filled with both grief and praise, for helping me understand what a portion of the spirit of a talk might have been. Oh sure, I imagine I might have come up with it eventually, but all the talk sped things along.
Janet, I realize after reading your comment that I should have phrased that differently: maybe “she equated housekeeping with part of nurturing, since housekeeping is a prime training ground for children.” I think it very significant that the videos weren’t about women cleaning but about women teaching children to clean and/or cleaning alongside their kids.
(That kid at the sink looked no older than two. That’s one brave momma.)
This talk and the ensuing discussion reminded me of an essay by Kristine Manwaring, My Home as a Temple. Her perspective has helped me see the sacred in the everyday.
To Becks comments on \”Faithful mormon women want children and do not delay in child-bearing…Children not possessions, not position, not prestige-are our greatest jewels.\” What happens to those \”faithful\” mormon women who are unable to bear children? What happens to those young \”faithful\” couples who are unable to even afford the roof over their own heads? Or the ones who cannot afford groceries? Are they to forego school, career, and their own lives for children because it is our calling? Are they unable to have some kind of stability in their lives before a child is thought of? I know no \”faithful\” newly wed\’s who are willing to drop the honeymoon stage for a child. According to Becks comments my two newly wed neighbors should have a newborn and should be atleast 1 month pregnant. What will happen to me? I am an \”unfaithful\” mormon woman. My husband and I waited four years before our child was born. We both wanted to ensure a stable checking account and stable married life to give to our child. Please explain these questions. Like so many other unanswered questions by your missionaries, I would like these questions answered with words other than \”pray, read the scriptures and go to church\”.
Lindsay, Gain a testimony or reject it yourself. Nobody can make that decision for you. As to the substance of what you wrote, Sister Beck did not talk of those situations, and your examples are extremes that *always* have been understood as exceptions to the general ideal. Your comment, “According to Beck’ comments my two newly wed neighbors should have a newborn and should be at least 1 month pregnant” is patently false. She simply never said Mormon women have to pump out babies without a break beginning on their honeymoons.
If you are sincere, read it more carefully. She didn’t say it. If you are not sincere, good riddance.
This subject seems to be a very Mormon thing. I come from a family of converts to the Church–so the women I’m going to talk about were not LDS. They were Jewish. And I often think of them and reflect on their lives when this sensitive subject comes up–how they ‘did it all’ and made it look so routine and uncontroversial. Jewish women are expected to be as well educated as the men they marry. And their husbands like to hear what they think even if they don’t always agree. The oldest generation I’ll refer to as the grandparents. Grandmother met grandfather at college–where both of them obtained their degrees and then married. Most women of her generation (early 1900’s) didn’t go to college but Jews traditionally value education and that includes their daughters as well as their sons. (They didn’t need a Prophet to tell them their daughters should be educated in preparation for life–it was just common sense.) She got a degree in teaching and he got his in business. She worked until the first child came along and he of course continued working at his job. She stayed home “nurturing” one baby and then a second and then a third. And after the third was in elementary school, she went back to teaching and was home by late afternoon. She had some housekeeping help but was primarily the Mom. Her daughters went to college, married and obtained their degrees, one in teaching, the other in mathematics–when their peers were dropping out of college to get married and stay at home. Both of them worked to put their husbands through graduate school. Then they had their children and they stopped working outside until the kids were in school full time. Laundry was always done, house not always spotless, family routinely had dinner together every evening. It never occurred to any of the family that these women
needed to make their children a higher priority–Jewish women (and men) adore and value children as their most precious jewels.
I learned from them that there is a time and a place for everything.
There’s a time for education, a time to work outside the home, a time for a different type of work–family work. Because these women did the type of work required for that specific time, their families benefitted. All their children had money put aside for college , so all kids obtained a college education. As a result, the next generation has always done better than the previous generation. What was the grandmother doing at this stage? She was back in school to learn what she wanted but had missed the first time! And that’s what her daughters did when their time came. All the women in that family had their degrees, worked outside the home, then did the stay at home thing, and went back to work outside the home. None of these women HAD to work. They weren’t materialistic keeping up with the Joneses. They were saving money to put the NEXT generation, their grandkids, through college. Each child saw how precious he/she was to them because their mother, their aunt, their sister, their grandma–was working so he/she would have a better life. And yes, that may have meant working to buy a child a car. All those kids turned out well, are successful in careers, they are religious, they have bright minds, and close families–and they are doing the same for the next generation. They didn’t have daily scripture study but somehow it was often enough, nor did they know to have FHE every Monday night. But I’d say their homes are spiritual, educational and nurturing in everyway. And there isn’t one family member who would even think to fault their women relatives for how, where or when they chose to do whatever type of work they did. So, why should we?
P.S. BTW, the above mentioned women have no recollection of anyone ever telling them when to marry, but instead were advised not to marry too young. Nor were they told how soon to start having children after marriage, or how many children they should have or how many years apart the children should be spaced. One woman never had any biological children but adopted. No one, including her parents, ever had the nerve to ask her why.
Some things are just personal –and should be so.
Why do they always wait until after midnight?
Although, to be fair, MSG, your comments were politely phrased and well-constructed. I’m probably just sick of slime and seeing it where it ain’t. Sorry, if that last one was an over-reaction.
Thank you, MSG — that’s a good illustration of there being a time and a season for everything, of setting priorities appropriate to the season, and of not running faster than we are able. Sometimes it is much, much easier to hear and understand those ideas when the subject is a small step removed from ourselves.
Great post. One question for you–
Can you explain to me how her “best” language was “in the context of claiming power and influence”? Because, really, that word (used REPEATEDLY)is the part that really got to me. Not be the best you can. Be the best in the world. As in better than everybody else. It seems to be that kind of attitude breeds mucho pride, and we are not fans of pride in this church.
If she hadn’t said we should be the best, I would have enjoyed the talk, and taken it as a call to action, to lengthen my stride, as it were, and to rejoice in my role. (Many women did take it this way.) As it was, I put on my freshly laundered quilt on my bed, realized it was backwards and upside down, and burst into tears because one of the best homemakers in the world wouldn’t do that. And then I ate a lot of Oreos, and told myself I was being ridiculous, but somehow couldn’t get past the fact that a woman chosen of God counseled me to belong to a group of the best homemakers in the world.
And so I am curious as to how you reconcile that. And I am interested in why you say it was merely in the context of claiming power and influence. Are we, as women, supposed to claim we are the best, in the hopes that it will give us power and influence? Are we to stand up and claim our power and influence as the best homemakers in the world, so as to…..what? Increase the missionary effort?
(And my children will never go to church in freshly laundered clothes with hair brushed to perfection. If that means I’m not showing proper respect, so be it. I can’t iron and there’s a very practical reason I have short hair. I can’t do hair, either. I even have the means to do it, and still I don’t.)
I have a meta-comment, a comment on the comments. (I hope it’s not inappropriate as I’m not quite sure yet of the etiquette of this place.)
I have opinions about President Beck’s teaching but I don’t have a dog in the discussion of whether to praise or criticize her. That said:
This is an amazingly civil place. A remarkably supportive place. Tolerant. Nurturing. By and large, people disagree quite agreeably. I realize that almost nothing is as intimate or important to people of faith as their faith itself, their thoughts and feelings about their religion and their relationship with God.
So watching some people struggle with their feelings and reactions to a religious leader’s teaching – when it troubles them – and watching others try to explain it in positive or at least benign ways, and simultaneously comfort and encourage those for whom it’s not going down so well, is impressive to me.
In a world corroded by harsh and divisive politics, where it is an occupation for many and a sport for numerous of us to calumniate against our ideological opponents almost without reserve or decency, watching the gentle toings and froings in the disagreements here is beyond refreshing, it is positively novel, and satisfying.
Don’t dismiss this lightly. I know that lots of people here are religious. I know it is a given that religion, perhaps unlike politics, should bring out the best in us; I deduce that many here, a large majority, feel that way, so you expect well of yourselves. But religion is often as contentious as any subject and disagreements even within a faith over matters as sensitive as those raised by Sister Beck’s talk, producing as they do serious reflection on the strivings of one’s own imperfect life, often boil over into rancor and wounds. We’ve all seen it.
Now, I’ve met only one person here and she doesn’t know me, I don’t need to curry favor with anyone here, am likely to be gone soon and only occasionally drop by, in short, I’ve no incentive I can think of to butter anyone up. So, let an outsider, with enough familiarity with Mormons to “get” some of the culture, and who’s read 600 comments on this subject now, give you all a compliment.
I think the exchange has been meant to be, and in nearly all cases has likely succeeded, in being uplifting for all and loving towards those who are working through their problem’s with President Beck’s talk. I can’t think of a nicer thing to say than that.
“Can you explain to me how her â€œbestâ€ language was â€œin the context of claiming power and influenceâ€? Because, really, that word (used REPEATEDLY)is the part that really got to me.”
When I re-listened to it, I only heard it only once: “…LDS women should be the best homemakers in the world.”
“If she hadnâ€™t said we should be the best, I would have enjoyed the talk, and taken it as a call to action, to lengthen my stride, as it were, and to rejoice in my role. (Many women did take it this way.) As it was, I put on my freshly laundered quilt on my bed, realized it was backwards and upside down, and burst into tears because one of the best homemakers in the world wouldnâ€™t do that.”
I guess different people have different ideas of what it means to be one of the best homemakers in the world. With any job, of course we are going to make mistakes. I do a fair bit of copyediting, and I would be out of a job if people didn’t make mistakes. Mistakes are just part of the process.
To me, the best homemaker is one who meets the needs of her family, which of course is going to vary radically from family to family (and within families across time, because children are so very different).
Julie, about the “best” thing…I think there is some confusion because the link in your blog is to a discussion of LAST WEEK’s RS general meeting talk. In the talk at hand, she only used “best” once, saying that LDS women “ought to be the best homemakers in the world.”
I don’t see how this is much different from Elder Ballard’s counsel two years ago that, “Our family-centered perspective should make Latter-day Saints strive to be the best parents in the world.”
I’m not saying it is the best rhetorical tool ever, but I find it interesting that his comments elicited no response, while hers were the source of much angst/outcry.
The Wiz, and others — If Sister Beck or any one of the Quorum of the Twelve had said “Latter-day Saint women should be the most righteous in the world” or “Latter-day Saint women should be the most educated in the world” or “Latter-day Saint women should be the most prayerful in the world,” would anyone have burst into tears because they weren’t yet perfect in that area? or would you have taken it as a challenge, an area that deserved your focus for the next few months, something to strive for but not a minimum requirement for you to wake up tomorrow morning?
The reaction you describe has been widely enough reported that it can’t be dismissed as of no merit, but it’s unrealistic enough that it should cause those who have had that reaction to seriously consider whether or not they have OVERreacted.
Jewish mommas are great, but they don’t have many kids. The American Jewish birthrate is extremely low overall, much less than the replacement rate. Only the Orthodox and especially the Ultr-Orthodox are having kids, and I don’t think those are the ones who are putting of having children for every reason under the sun.
I and lots of other Mormon couples have had kids while in school, still having debt, and so on. We have found that having children when you’re young and strong is a joy and that if you reduce your expectations you can make ends meet. Also, Mormon parents and Mormon wards tend to be pretty supporting. And, though its controversial, you can also sometimes receive state assistance.
I don’t disagree with your critique of the “best” language. I would hope that we could chalk it up to someone not used to being parsed to death and still see the merits of the talk as the whole. I think a charitable reading of the “best” language might be something like this:
“Given the truths of the restoration and the influence of the Holy Spirit, we have everything we need to succeed marvelously at the assignments that have been given us. We have the capacity to be the very best.”
My guess is that she was trying her best (ha) to motivate us to do better. My guess is also that after the flood of letters she’ll get, she’ll either find a new way to say it or she’ll qualify it more carefully (as Elder Ballard did–there’s a big difference between ‘striving to be the best’ and ‘be[ing] he best’ in my mind).
Lib, that was nice. Do I know you?
I just want to comment on President Becks use of the word ‘best’. I noticed as I read President Becks talk from the General Relief Society meeting that she quotes President Hinckley and he uses the word best twice. Maybe her use of ‘best’ comes from studying his words and using them in her talks. Just a thought.
Perhaps Sister Beck could have worded things to better convey her message. Let’s assume, for the time being, that that is the case. I think it is important that we not find ourselves guilty of the very thing we are complaining about with her. We are saying that the terminology she used was not helpful. We, in a very real sense, are comparing her to other conference speakers who have had years to practice and perfect conference talks. Is that really fair and helpful? She, while called of God, is still human and, thus, imperfect.
I think the spirit of her talk was that we can all do better and should all strive to be better. While we are pleading that she give us the benefit of the doubt that we are striving to be better, can’t we do the same for her? Instead of criticizing her, why not look for what the Spirit was trying to teach through her message. Afterall, while Sis Beck is not perfect, God is and, knowing what we need and where we are spiritually, can lovingly help us be better.
I just don’t think looking for the negative and choosing to be offended or saying that others may have been offended by the talk is not helpful to anyone.
Do these talks today have less of an impact than ones that â€˜call to repentanceâ€™ on the same topic that seemed more common previously? If so, do you feel the GAâ€™s are somehow watering down their talks, or do you think there is sound rationale behind the changed tone and delivery?
(1) I think they do, to some extent. (2) A bit of both.
If Sister Beck had advised LDS women to be the most righteous or prayerful, there might not be much negative reaction, probably in large part because those two things are so clearly associated with the raison d’Ãªtre of the church (bringing souls to God). If she had said that LDS women should be the most educated, you might see reactions similar to what we are seeing now. If she had said that, it would be tough to view it simply as “an area that deserved your focus for the next few months,” and might, unnecessarily lead some to see themselves as deficient and/or attacked. While the analogy isn’t perfect, I think that the call to be the best homemaker is more like a call to be the best educated than it is like calls to be the most righteous or prayerful.
I think you are on to something interesting. We would accept “best pray-ers” because we accept that this is within the mission of women of the church. But many of us are conflicted about homemaking, so to call us the “best home-makers” raises hackles. Additionally, there is (for reasons I’m not clear on) this idea that if you are not (what you consider to be) a good homemaker, the expected response to her words is guilt, not a desire to do better. (I’ve heard reports of LOTS and LOTS of women who cried at this talk.) Why is that? I don’t think any women would cry at the “best pray-er” language, they’d just resolve to do a little better. But we are resistant to resolving to be better homemakers. Why? Because we don’t accept the importance of homemaking or because it’s a lot more work to keep a clean house than it is to spend five more minutes praying every night? Or both?
My view is that homemaking, like education, is obviously a good thing, but the connection with exhaltation is much more tenuous than righteousness or prayerfulness. I would argue being a great homemaker is neither necessary or sufficient for being a “good Mormon” woman, and that high achievement in homemaking requires talents at some simply do not possess (that isn’t to say than everyone cannot strive to magnify the talents they do posses). Given that, if faced with an admonition to be the best, guilt, while maybe not the most healthy response, is at least explicable.
Julie (167), I think you’re right; I’m not sure how tangental this is, but a lot of women in the Church measure their homemaking abilities by how their children seem to be turning out, so when that measure of success is in doubt, the wrong wording in a talk feels less like a challenge and more like a dagger. It’s even worse when people respond by saying “You were uncomfortable with the talk? You must be sinning,” and things to that effect.
I just happened to be flipping through a BYU MFHD textbook and found a chapter by Sister Beck titled, â€œNurturing at Meal Times,â€ and wondered if this chapter would placate people or send them completely over the edge. Given its clear position of traditional gender roles, it might do the latter.
But what it reminded me of was the limitations of the length and form of the general conference talk. For example, in this chapter she states that, â€œTrue power is found in the hands of a worthy nurturer especially at meal times.â€ As a stand alone statement, thatâ€™s probably even more polemical than what was said in general conference. But in the chapter she goes on to tell a story about a mother who got up unusually early, made breakfast and ate with an inactive son and, through those mealtime discussions, eventually helped him come around. Itâ€™s a story that helps clarify the intent of her opening statement â€“ and one thatâ€™s much too long for a brief general conference talk.
Itâ€™s true that general conference speakers ought to be conscientious of their language, but it seems more importantly true that listeners ought to be generous with their reading.
Adam, traducing seems a bit strong. I see people trying to make sense of it and even disagree with it, but traducing? If those comments exist, I’ve missed them.
I believe all of this crying is result of one not yet making an earnest connection to God in a personal way. When a person is wrapped up in what they percieve others are thinking about them and are overly self-critical tears will often come. Tapping into the mercy (godly help) of Christ by humbly confessing our weaknesses to God results in a divine partnership that eleminates negative inter-saint comparing, being easily offended and involved in toxic self-criticism. I used to be a victim of that funk sometimes until I came to this understanding
Although I waiver between being a marginal housekeeper and a good housekeeper, as I housekeep on, Christ makes up the difference and makes me the best housekeeper. Sister Beck’s talk encouraged and strengthened me. Marcia
“It was a collective admonition, not an individual one.”
Clearly so, but I am not sure it makes a tremendous difference in a church where we are supposed to liken the scriptures to ourselves and we go into GC expecting to “get … sometimes some personal answers” (as expressed in a blog post from yesterday).
In addition, with a collective admonition such as this, someone who isn’t great at homemaking might see themselves not only as letting themselves and their family down, but also as dragging down the whole church.
“But many of us are conflicted about homemaking, so to call us the â€œbest home-makersâ€ raises hackles”
I think many of us ARE conflicted by homemaking, and I think it’s because society’s expectations for women are extremely complex right now.
50 years ago, I wonder if the admonition to be the best home-maker in the world would have caused so much distress. I rather doubt it, because being a home-maker is simply what was expected of women. That’s what women DID, after all. That’s how they nurtured and cared for and supported their families.
Then, riding the wave of feminism, gender expectations changed DRAMATICALLY. Now, house-work and home-making is demeaning and incredibly uncool. I’ve read essays from prominent feminists who equate it with slavery. Heck, when I was a senior in high school, I remember telling my mother, who was a stay-at-home-mom–and God bless her for it–that I thought her life was so boring, I never wanted to do what she did. (Can you imagine anything more discouraging to hear from your own daughter?? I feel bad to this day for saying it!)
Now we’re told that education, and independence, and political as well as financial power are what truly make us great. And I think that, as women in the Church, we’ve bought into it–at least to a certain extent. So we’ve stopped being such good little homemakers. For example, I know if my husband expected me to do all the housework, I’d tell him where to stick it!
And yet…we’re still clinging to this old sense of obligation, this idea that we’re failing as women if we don’t fulfill traditional gender roles. And I don’t know–maybe we ARE. That’s why I think we’re so conflicted. I mean, what’s a woman supposed to BE anymore, anyway?!? We’ve got people on all sides telling us all kinds of things…and I, for one (who am a young mother and business owner), get lost in it all!
Re 167 and 168: I think the issue here is how we define homemaking and what its goals are. If the goal to have your house mistaken for the Pottery Barn catalog then, no, that isn’t at all related to the church’s mission. But that isn’t how PRes. Beck defined it. She talked about homemaking in the context of nurturing and talked about the point of homemaking as (1) creating an environment conducive to growth and (2) providing opportunities to teach children practical skills as well as eternal values. In that context, Pres. Beck’s context, homemaking is essential to the mission of the church and LDS women should strive to be the best at it. (Again, the best language opens itself up to problems.)
Katie, your comment reminded me of the old saying that 60 years ago, Jewish girls were supposed to marry a doctor. Now, they are supposed to be a doctor _and_ marry a doctor. I don’t think LDS have gotten to that point, but we surely are closer to it than when Pres. Benson told women to “come home.” I do think we have to balance the “homemaking” part of Pres. Beck’s talk with the “do less” part of her talk.
There is more on our plates now; thank heavens for preshredded cheese and no-wrinkle Dockers.
Given that, if faced with an admonition to be the best, guilt, while maybe not the most healthy response, is at least explicable.
It was a collective admonition, not an individual one.
Dan Ellsworth, if you had an iota of the sympathy for Sister Beck that you have for those traducing her, you’d have a different response.
Clearly so, but I am not sure it makes a tremendous difference in a church where we are supposed to liken the scriptures to ourselves and we go into GC expecting to â€œget â€¦ sometimes some personal answersâ€ (as expressed in a blog post from yesterday).
It does make a tremendous difference.
I agree that the definition of homemaking is part of the issue. Clearly, at one point she equates homemaking with nurturing. However, she immediately goes on to include housekeeping tasks in her definition of homemaking that are less clearly related to nurturing (if someone other than you washes your family’s clothes, are you less of a nurturer?). Then she says “Working beside children in homemaking tasks creates opportunities to teach and model qualities children should emulate.” Correct me if I am wrong, but I think that a fair restatement of that sentence would be “Involving children in housekeeping creates opportunities to teach and nurture children.” If this is correct, housekeeping/homemaking can lead to nurturing, but isn’t necessarily the nurturing itself.
I should point out that I am only quibbling with a limited portion of the talk. I agree that homemaking in its larger sense is about “(1) creating an environment conducive to growth and (2) providing opportunities to teach children practical skills as well as eternal values,” and that a sympathetic reading of the talk would suggest that to make these points was Sister Beck’s intention.
“a sympathetic reading of the talk would suggest that to make these points was Sister Beckâ€™s intention”
That’s all I’m saying.
I wonder if Sister Beck considered parents with mostly daughters (seven). I have encouraged them all to go on a mission and to use their talents for many things inside as well as outside the home. I hope they will take advantage of educational opportunities which in my opinion include missions for everyone. But I agree with Sister Beck education can be best utilized as they marry and raise families.
A comment at Tales gives some good background. I can’t vouch for its veracity, but it sounds reasonable enough to me. The commenter writes:
Again, I can’t vouch for veracity. But I’ve given any number of talks or lessons on minimal sleep, distracted, just trying to do my best.
I would have liked a somewhat different phrasing in parts of Sister Beck’s talk; but I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt, as a struggling and imperfect person herself, that she meant well.
I remembered another “best” talk–The Gospel Vision of the Arts by President Kimball. For some reason a call for Mormon Michelangelos and Wagners seems inspiring, but a call for the best homemakers is seen as discouraging. I assume that this is because all mothers are homemakers (whether there full-time or not), but artists are self-chosen; and because art is more glamorous than homemaking.
Re ‘best pray-er” in comparison to “best homemaker”
Prayer is not quantifiable. You can not compare your prayers with somebody else’s prayers. Pray is an extremely personal thing, and, although one does get better at prayer with practice, it is not something you have to have skills to accomplish.
Homemaking, or housekeeping (for that is really what is getting us all riled) is immediately evident. It takes time. It takes skills, and for many of us, acquiring skills for a job we feel we were not blessed with innate talents to accomplish is overwhelming and seems difficult. Housekeeping is also not private or personal. Everybody can see if you are a slob, and judge accordingly. Comparisons abound. Feelings of inadequacy result. Lather, rinse, repeat.
And Ardis- #159
FYI, telling somebody that she has overreacted is not helpful. It may be true, but it does not decrease somebody’s reactions, rather such a dismissal of her feelings makes her feel more defensive, more angry, and closes off communication completely. From what I have read around the blogs, many women who were initially negatively affected by Sis. Beck’s talk are doing what they can to work through their reactions, trying to come to a better reading and a better feeling about a leader they have sustained and want to support. Cut these sisters some slack as they do their best to reconcile the messages of power and influence paired with words that left them feeling discouraged and hopeless.
And Wiz–pass the oreos.
Heather, it does seem that you grant a privilege of reacting to a great many other women which you deny to me. I didn’t say your friends were evil, or worthless, or faithless, or even that they should try to be modest while nursing in Sacrament Meeting. I merely pointed out that they were overreacting. They were, you are, and I stand by my earlier assessment.
You are welcome to think we are overreacting. I’m not even saying you are wrong. I’m prone to overreactions all the time. I’m just saying that in a context like this, where Julie is trying to bring out the better points of Sis. Beck’s talk and discuss it in an uplifting and helpful way to those of us who had trouble with it, a blatent dismissal of a person’s overreaction is not helpful to the discussion.
Heather, I invite you to reread my offending comment 159. It *explicitly* was not a dismissal, merely a caution and an invitation to reconsider. I apologize for responding to you yet again in this way, but I’m growing weary of having my words misread and misapplied.
Ardis–Your question caused me to introspect a little, and I concluded that had a member of the 12 given the talk, I’d have been far *more* inclined to respond with tears and self-recrimination. Why? Maybe because–feminist that I am, ahem–I see them as having more authority (you noticed the “ahem”? I really don’t know what to do with this assumption, but I’m honest enough to admit that it’s sitting in my soul, twidding it’s thumbs). More substantially, however, I’d have found the conflation of housekeeping with homemaking which linguistically occurred in one paragraph–and which I admit can be dismantled in the general context of the talk–more emphatic. As it was, I thought “huh. She didn’t really mean that nurturing = housekeeping, right? She means it’s a small part of it, right? I hope so…” Then I thought about it for a few days until I felt OK about the paragraph I really found odd. Had Elder Oaks, master of linguistic precision, uttered the same paragraph, I’d have assumed my unmopped floor really did indeedy signify poor nurturing capacity, and probably would’ve cried.
Katie–I agree with you in part. Housework is seen as uncool (or as a necessary drudgery rather than something requiring a great deal of skill. To be fair, it does require less skill than it did when one had to know how to make soap out of the rendered fat of a dead pig. Thank goodness, as Julie says, for preshredded cheese. And Ivory.). Homemaking, on the other hand, currently enjoys something of a revival. That revival is even couched within certain segments of feminism–I recall a international feminist conference at which I presented a talk on the female rhetoric of quilting. I feared everyone would throw heavy objects and the deluded little mormon, but instead everyone loved it. AND there were presentations on cookbook marginalia as autobiography, gardening, and (hehehehe) making bread. The cool part is that these scholars placed domestic tasks into an ideological framework privildedging the coalesence of art and nurture. Even the oft-times irritating Martha Stewart illustrates that making a home is a wee bit cool these days. Sweeping the floor, not so much.
Julie–I emphatically enjoyed your revision of the “best” line. I may print it out and past it into my Ensign by President Beck’s talk.
The Lib–you’re a peach.
“As it was, I put on my freshly laundered quilt on my bed, realized it was backwards and upside down, and burst into tears because one of the best homemakers in the world wouldnâ€™t do that. And then I ate a lot of Oreos, and told myself I was being ridiculous”
Wait, your quilt was freshly laundered? I’d say you deserve more Oreos as a reword for getting the heavy linens through the wash.
I’ve decided to try and make housework meditative since the teleology or a dustless floor still evades me somewhat. I just cleaned both bathrooms, swiffered the whole durned house, washed a sink of dishes, and folded clothes while trying to use the repetative movements such task require as a means of calming my mind and focusing on ….baby crying, focus gone now. But it sort of worked. The sweeping = quite so bad.
That was kind of a cool description, Janet. I’ve been listening to podcasts lately while I do my chores and surprisingly I noticed I was missing something contemplative from when I did them before.
Janet, yours is a refreshing voice of moderation. There simply is no need for the circular firing squad, is there?
One thing I have been extremely impressed with Sister Beck for is directly responding to this post. She certainly did her best to put out the call to “do something extraordinary”.
And she has done quite well for any women’s movement. Seeing that at least 15 posts have been almost exclusivley about her, and collectively, I estimate she has generated over 2000 comments in just a mere two days.
Thanks for all the great comments. Julie might come back to this later, but for now I’m going to hit the pause button and give everyone a chance to look at all the other interesting discussions going on around here.