General’s Women Session Oct 2015 – A Mental Health Perspective cont.

General’s Women Session Oct 2015 – A Mental Health Perspective cont. October 19, 2015

Around each General Conference I try to share my thoughts about the messages we receive.  I don’t usually get around to comment on all the talks – just from a time perspective.  But I will do my best to cover a majority before our next conference.

I have found that these General Conference messages go on to color our spiritual lens in a variety of ways for the foreseeable future – in family, church, internet and many other settings.  As I participate in this bi-annual Mormon ritual, I -like many of you- have a myriad of insights, thoughts, questions, spiritual experiences, and concerns come up in regards to the many aspects of my life (personal, relational, spiritual, cultural and professional).  Please join me through the comment section in sharing your voice as to how this conference’s messages are affected you.  What can we celebrate and feel “called” to incorporate into our lives in significant ways?  What lifts and edifies? What do we need to challenge or think through in nuanced ways (understanding that it is difficult to cover any subject in complete depth within the framework of 10 to 15 minutes that these men and women are given)?  What might be healthy for some to hear while for others not so healthy (i.e. those managing depression, ocd, anxiety, etc.)?  How do we frame our ideas and thoughts in respectful ways – especially when we may disagree with one another?  How do we maintain the balance between trusting ourselves, offering our voice, and keeping our commitment to sustain our leaders (whom I believe only have positive and protective intentions)?

My comments will be italicized…

Here to Serve a Righteous Cause by Carol F. McConkie

Messages I found to be healthy and uplifting:

We have a divine nature, and we each have a glorious work to do.

We are all valued. We are all needed.

The least of us, the humblest, is in partnership with the Almighty in achieving the purpose of the eternal plan of salvation… In the work of salvation, there is no room for comparison, criticism, or condemnation. It is not about age, experience, or public acclaim. This sacred work is about developing a broken heart, a contrite spirit, and a willingness to use our divine gifts and unique talents to do the Lord’s work…

Again, like the first talk in this meeting, this is a talk full of purpose and meaning for one’s life.  It speaks of value that we all add, regardless of who we are or what circumstances we find ourselves in.  These messages offer identity and direction.  

Messages I found to be needing of further nuance/discussion:

I was reminded that to shine with the beauty of holiness, to stand with the Savior, and to bless others, we must be clean. Purity is possible through the grace of Christ as we deny ungodliness and choose to love God with might, mind, and strength.

At times this talk was limited by the ‘pureness’ factor – if you are pure, then you can serve and fulfill your potential.  None of us are pure. That’s an unrealistic expectation – and yet we are all worthy and able to do good for others regardless of where we find ourselves on the measuring stick of righteousness.  I wish we could talk about repentance from the perspective of it being a process that helps us – instead of a qualifier that, unless we are doing it exactly the right way, limits us.  

I also wish that the call to serve a righteous cause could have been a little less limited to the Mormon ideals of women.  Yes, starting a family is wonderful and a righteous cause – as is reading our scriptures and devoting ourselves to our faith.  But there are many other causes that are less traditionally Mormon and could give vision to those who are able to serve in a variety of diverse capacities: volunteer for habitat for humanity, the red cross, the salvation army, feed the hungry in your community, join the peace corps, get CPR training, etc. Our women are capable, intelligent and incredibly talented. Their combined forces could dramatically change the world if they can be directed towards worthy causes. At times I feel that the beneficiaries of all of our energies reside within ward boundaries – and that’s a great place to start. But I also think that we could expand our area of influence.  

A Summer with Great-Aunt Rose by Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Messages I found to be healthy and uplifting:

It is interesting how Christ was able to teach the most sublime truths using simple stories. His parables invited His disciples to embrace truths not just with their minds but also with their hearts and to connect eternal principles with their everyday lives.

God didn’t design us to be sad. He created us to have joy! So if we trust Him, He will help us to notice the good, bright, hopeful things of life. And sure enough, the world will become brighter. No, it doesn’t happen instantly, but honestly, how many good things do? Seems to me that the best things, like homemade bread or orange marmalade, take patience and work.

I like the emphasis on the purpose of life being about finding joy – even amid the difficulties of life.  And he’s not speaking about this in a glib way like “just be happy.”  He is recognizing that often this takes concerted effort, time and practice.  

I don’t think I was clinically depressed—I’m not sure you can talk yourself out of that.

So incredibly important that he brought up this distinction! For those suffering from clinical depression, it is recommended to seek professional help.  And one may not know if they fit the criteria for clinical depression – so getting an assessment is a good start (by a primary care provider, a therapist, etc.).  It is important as well, that we don’t use these types of messages to ‘cheerlead’ a loved one who may be depressed (i.e. “just look at the bright side,” “things aren’t that bad,” etc.). It is not helpful and can actually have the opposite effect one is hoping for.

Now is part of eternity. It doesn’t only begin after we die! Faith and hope will open your eyes to the happiness that is placed before you.

Although having an eternal perspective can often be very helpful in putting things into perspective for members, it can also have the unintended effect of members being willing to put up with bad, even abusive, situations as they ‘endure’ to get to the afterlife.  This is problematic and I’m glad Uchtdorf is reminding us that it is important to experience joy, pleasure and satisfaction in the here and now as well.  

I exercised faith in God’s promises by filling my life with meaningful things. I went to school. I got an education. That led me to a career that I loved.

Wow! Speaking to women about meaningful ways of fulfilling ourselves that don’t include becoming a wife or mother!

The one thing that matters most in all the world—the thing Jesus said is the heart of His gospel… It is love—the pure love of Christ.

Amen!

 

One comment I will make about the General Women’s Session in general: I find it inappropriate that we have invited children as young as 8 years old to attend meetings where the material is either above their developmental level – or if it is at their developmental level, then not really appropriate for adolescent and adult women to be challenged by.  When we are discussing such things like pornography, and relating stories where a mother has died and her starving baby is found beside her – these are powerful, provocative images that I would not want my 8 year old listening to.  Not to mention it’s hard for any 8 year old to sit still for this long and stay truly engaged.  I’m not sure why this decision was made a few years back.  I already have reservations with the 12 year old young men having to listen to the usually very adult messages shared in the Priesthood session.  My suggestion would be 16 years and older so the messages can really be directed towards a more adult audience. 

Another comment: it would be great to see a woman be the closing speaker for every Priesthood session of Conference. I don’t understand the need to have men be in charge of, preside over, and be the concluding speakers at a meeting that is supposed to be symbolic of the great capacity of women in our church.  

Natasha Helfer Parker can be contacted at natashaparker.org.

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