Marriage and Parenthood

In the LDS Church, we have high expectations and high ideals. Leaders do not shy away from teaching a very specific ideal family constellation, sexual purity before marriage, and patterning our life after the Savior’s life in every possible way. There is nothing wrong with teaching ideals and one could argue that that is the primary job of religious institutions. However, in real life, holding up ideals often leaves members never feeling  “good enough” because they have not achieved the ideal righteous Mormon life. Chronic feelings of  “never good enough” because your life doesn’t look like an Ensign magazine cover, your child has left the Church, your spouse isn’t committed to church callings, you’re struggling with the word of wisdom, you’re having difficulty forgiving someone, you’re not a good provider, or you’re not an attentive mother or father, can erode our whole sense of self.

What is shame?

Shame is a universal emotion defined by researcher Brené Brown, PhD as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.” Shame inspires us to hide ourselves from others, to judge ourselves and to go deeper into secretive behaviors.

Shame triggers

Religious institutions are not the only place we get messages about ideals. We are bombarded with messages about how we “should” be–what ideal women and men look like and act like, what the ideal house and household looks like, how your children should behave and more. Not living up to our ideal identity or how we want to view ourselves and be viewed by others has been identified as the primary trigger for shame.

One of my ideal identities is the desire to be viewed as a “good mother.” If I am not behaving as a “good mother” – if I’m being preoccupied with work, forgetting their doctor appointment, or losing my patience– my ideal identity is challenged and I am susceptible to feelings of shame. Shame can be triggered not only by how we view ourselves, but also by how we think others view us.

What’s wrong with shame?

You may be thinking, “What’s the problem with feeling shame when you don’t measure up to your ideal? Doesn’t that make you want to change?” No, shame does not inspire self-improvement. It most often initiates and fuels self-destructive behavior. Chronic feelings of shame are present in toxic perfectionism, eating disorders, problematic sexual behaviors, substance abuse, and sexual abuse. Over time, shame can become integrated into our self-image, into our core experience of who we are (not what we have done).

Where shame gets particularly tricky for Mormons is that while we can discount the world’s messages about our ideal selves as shallow, uninspired and sometimes downright evil, faithful members can’t easily discount the ideals put forward by inspired Church leaders. Nor should we. How do we accept the ideals set forth by our Church leaders without spiraling into self-destructive shame because we don’t measure up?

1. Draw clear distinctions between ideal and real

I am not suggesting that we throw away the ideals presented by our doctrine and teachings. What I am suggesting is that we overtly discuss that the image of an ideal family, ideal mother, ideal priesthood holder, ideal child or teen as something to strive for, not to actually achieve anytime soon. I have seen the damaging consequences of believing that the religious ideal is actually attainable in this life contribute to destructive perfectionism, depression, anxiety, low self-worth, and shame. Dr. Brené Brown suggests that “healthy striving” toward a goal is very different than toxic perfectionism.

As an adolescent, I recognized my blessed and privileged life and yet, for a period of time, I still wasn’t happy. I concluded that something must be inherently wrong with me. I started to experience deep feelings of shame–that I was somehow flawed because I went through periods where I wasn’t able to feel joy and gratitude. I have the Gospel. I should be happy. I slid into several years of toxic perfectionism, denying my emotions, and hiding my authentic self.

Read full story by Dr. Julie De Azevedo Hanks on Meridian Magazine.

Claire Pincock in the hometown of her grandfather

After a lot of prayer and fasting, I was told not to serve a mission.

Accepting the answer “no” was extremely difficult, but at the same time God told me that there were reasons why, and that I would know what they were in due time. Let me tell you the reasons why I’m so grateful I listened.

**Editor’s Note: This article was written by Claire Pincock and has been published in full by her request. 

God Still Used Me As an Instrument to Bless His Children
Pretty soon after I would have left on my mission, I met a boy with serious depression. While he had had people to support him, at that point he felt very alone because he was tired of hurting his friends. Four months into my “mission”, I was able to calm him down twice from suicidal thoughts. Throughout our relationship I helped to show him God’s love for him. I helped to show him that he was worth love and life and that he deserved happiness. God put me in his life, and I was an instrument in His hands to bring my friend happiness.

I Still Learned A Lot About Myself
I dated a lot while on my “mission”. I moved into a very social single’s ward and went on more dates than I can count. Most of them were just casual, fun, friendly double dates. I learned so much about the difference between what I thought I needed and wanted in a man and what I actually needed and wanted. I also learned my strengths in relationships. I learned not only who is good for me, but who I am good for. This has been instrumental in my life.

I Married My Best Friend
Because I didn’t get to serve, I diligently wrote a lot of my friends who did. I told them that I wanted to have the mission experience through them. I developed wonderful relationships with them and got to know who they were very personally. I would email one of my friends back and forth when he was online until his mission disallowed that. A year into my “mission”, that friend came home. I was so ecstatic. I couldn’t get to my hometown until nearly 10 at night, but we talked until 2 in the morning. He was just as ecstatic as I was. Because of that night and more dating experiences shortly after, I realized that this man, who had been my friend my whole life, was exactly who I was looking for. We were engaged before I would have gotten home.

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Claire and Seth on their wedding day
Claire and Seth on their wedding day

I Learned a Foreign Language Anyway 
There were many other wonderful advantages from listening to God’s plan for me. I found a major I love, and I have had irreplaceable experiences in my classes and doing research in my field. I went on a study abroad and learned my grandpa’s native language. I got to see the house he was born in and learn more about his culture. I got really into family history and have taken countless names to the temple with my friends and family. I developed a really close relationship with my mom as we would do this work together. I wouldn’t trade that year-and-a-half for anything.

Claire on her study abroad in Copenhagen
Claire on her study abroad in Copenhagen

I Felt Misunderstood and It Wasn’t Easy

It hasn’t always been easy. It was extremely difficult to say goodbye to all of my friends. I was sad to watch them go and a bit jealous that I didn’t get to. I’ve been in a room filled with just RMs and me, and it can be difficult while everyone shares in their wonderful experiences. I’ve been rejected by boys who want an RM. I’ve been looked down on by my leaders for not serving (very rarely, and not intentionally, but it’s happened). I’ve been asked countless times why I’m not on my mission. I’ve even had people question my answer. I’ve been told that God would never say no to a mission, so maybe I’m interpreting Him incorrectly. I’ve been told that I know less about the gospel because I didn’t serve a mission. People don’t mean to hurt. They don’t really understand that fight that I went through. They don’t understand how badly I wanted to go, and they don’t understand why these things could be hurtful. It’s always been clear to me that the church does not see us as second-class members, but people aren’t perfect, and sometimes you might be treated that way.

Luckily, there have also been a countless number of people who respect my decision and respected me for it. There have been so many people who see the reality of my spirit and my love of this church despite not serving. I’m actually grateful for those dating rejections because even if I had served a mission, that isn’t the kind of person I needed to marry. My husband looks up to me as I look up to him. He respects my spiritual insights despite the fact that he had I name badge and I never did. I’m also so grateful for my friends and family who did serve, especially my fellow sisters. It hasn’t always been easy, but I’ve learned to set aside my pride and rejoice at every call my friends receive. I rejoice in their service and in their joy, just as I hope that they rejoice in mine even though it’s different.

God Knew I Didn’t Need a Mission. I Needed to Stay Home, and That’s Okay
Six months after I would have gotten home, I’m so glad I didn’t serve. God had a much more beautiful plan for me. I didn’t need a mission. I needed to stay home, and that’s okay. Every member needs to pray and find out for themselves. While I would have been serving, I’ve almost finished my education, I went through the temple for this first time, I got married to the love of my life, and I’ve done so many other wonderful things I wouldn’t trade for the world.

Most Importantly, I Listened to God
So, if you’re a guy or girl who came home early or couldn’t serve, if you got the answer no and listened, or even God told you it was your choice and you chose no, as long as you are listening to God’s plan for you, you will be happier than if you had followed the plan which you made for yourself. Even if it’s nothing like His plan for me (if it doesn’t include dating or marriage or an education), you will be happier than if you hadn’t have listened.

Image via In The Head of Al

I think people are surprised when they hear I work full time and Ben stays home with our daughter (and soon to be son). Ben is a hard working, multitasking, full time student who choose to finish his degree online when our first child was born to be home with her and have the freedom of more time together as a family. Though I know he is anxious for the day that those roles are reversed, it wont be quite yet, he embraces and loves how things are now, too.

I think it’s awesome in our culture there is so much, and well deserving, praise for motherhood and absolutely everything that comes with it for the rest of their lives. But I’m bummed when I think of the just as deserving, if not more deserving in some cases, role of fatherhood who don’t get any or enough credit.

And to do so, hopefully, like Elder Christofferson saysTo praise and encourage fatherhood and fathers is not to shame or discount anyone.”

As I’m in the home stretch of this pregnancy with only several weeks left, it has become harder to be comfortable and sleep through the night. Today actually, I’ve been awake since 4 am because of it—laying in bed hoping I’d fall back asleep before my alarm goes off to get ready for work, but I don’t. So here I am at work, feeling like actual living-dead, with bags under eyes that are hitting my chin, mascara on from yesterday, about to head into another meeting. And I can’t help but think of how awesome Ben is and always has been.

I come home from work and the dishes are done, not because I asked him to do them or because I’m pregnant, but because he simply saw that they were there. Dinner is cooking. I find where he is in the house by following the sound of laughter and the trail of Legos and toy animals from the animal kingdom they built that day. I’m shown pictures of Gracie feeding a horse that’s in our neighborhood and another bottle gone from blowing bubbles in the backyard.

Read the full article at In The Head of Al.

Image via LDS Living

Saturday night, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf addressed the men in Priesthood session about building stronger marriages and families. Shortly after giving this talk, his mind turned to his sweet wife, Harriet, prompting him to share their incredible love story on Facebook. From love at first sight to unrequited love, the Uchtdorf’s have a story to match that of any romance.

“Tonight I spoke about saving and enriching our marriages and families. As I spoke, I thought of my beloved wife Harriet.

“I think I fell in love with her from the first moment I saw her. Unfortunately, this beautiful young woman didn’t seem to feel the same about me. But time passed, and eventually I was married to the woman I had loved ever since I first saw her. The process hadn’t been easy—there were moments of suffering and despair—but finally my happiness was full, and it still is, even more so.

“I have learned that in God’s plan of happiness, we are not so much looking for someone perfect but for a person with whom, throughout a lifetime, we can join efforts to create a loving, lasting and more perfect relationship.

“To all, married or single, I say: let the pure love of Christ fill your heart. Whatever problems your family, marriage, or relationships face—and whatever you must do to solve them—the beginning and the end of the solution is charity, the pure love of Christ. “Charity never faileth.” It is true for saving marriages! It is true for saving families!”

Read the full article at LDS Living.

Recently The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints came out with a new policy that does not allow children of same-sex couples to join the church until they turn 18, denounce their parent’s lifestyle, and are no longer living in their parents’ household.

To start off, it’s important to recognize that regardless of what others have said, this wasn’t a hateful decision. I’m confident that if you were to listen in on the Councils of The Church, you’d be in agreement with the new policies.

Since the media frequently highlights the views of defectors of The Church, I figured I’d offer an alternative, LDS perspective.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell said, “Studying the Church … through the eyes of its defectors.. [is] like interviewing Judas to understand Jesus. Defectors always tell us more about themselves than about that from which they have departed.”

A lot of the hype surrounding the church’s policy was generated by excommunicated members of the LDS Church. If you really want to learn about LDS beliefs and practices, I believe you should first go to those who are faithful Latter-day Saints, not defectors of the faith.

The LDS church is often painted by media as being not inclusive, judgmental and old fashioned. I believe the LDS Church’s new policies regarding homosexual couples and their children were made out of love, not hatred.

Here are 5 ways The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have shown love and respect to the LGBT community in recent decisions:

1) Church leaders express love for and seek to understand those with SSA

Read the rest of the article here

 

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To Our Daughter about to Marry: 7 Ways to Happiness
(Image via ldsmag.com)

(Source: Meridian Magazine; By: Maurine Proctor)

Dearest daughter,

In a few days you will be married and I will watch you close the door on your childhood with poignancy. You will pack your youth away like a dress you outgrew, and I confess I will miss everything about your presence in this house. I think I will run into your room to tell you something, and I’ll be surprised that you’re not there.

I want to give you a parting gift—my thoughts on how to be joyfully happy in marriage. These keys are easier to say than to accomplish, but I trust that in the journey ahead you will understand what to do—and perhaps in just the right moment they will come back to you.

This counsel I give to both.

Marrying across an Altar

The altar in the temple at which you will kneel is profoundly significant. It is an altar that symbolizes the great, atoning sacrifice of our Savior. Why would the Lord have us sealed across this altar? This is the great secret.

You know that His atonement means at-one-ment, and it is through this stunning, unimaginable gift that we can again be reconciled to God, made at-one with him, our face turning home again, the veil rent.

Surprisingly, it is also through the Lord’s atonement that we become one with each other, that two who have lived their lives separately and singly can be joined for eternity, never to be entirely separated again.

Oneness in marriage is actually made possible through the atonement and the gradual change and expansion in us that is promised if we accept this gift. We are to leave behind our old, smaller selves.

Satan’s work is to scatter and divide us. The Greek word for Satan is “diabolos” meaning to divide or separate. This name means “He who places division.”

It was Satan’s work to scatter the Children of Israel, and the Lord’s to gather them in one again. Those who ultimately live in Zion will be of one heart. Satan sows division. The Lord invites us to oneness.

So there you’ll be, kneeling across an altar symbolizing that opportunity for the oneness you seek—and it will come if you are both willing to accept the Lord’s gift of grace that this altar symbolizes.

We come to each other in marriage incomplete and somewhat fragmented. We are still children about so many things. The Lord says, “I will take you on a journey to wholeness. The broken things in you I can mend. The incompletion, I can complete.”

The promises for this journey are more than finite minds can comprehend, but the sacrifice is not just Christ’s–it will involve your sacrifice as well—the sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit. You must be willing to grow, discard the parts of you that are small and contracted. You must shed parts of yourself that are burdening the way—even your favorite, most habitual, and long justified weaknesses.

Oh, that is hard! Happiness is built on repentance and changing–and expanding yourself is happily not your job alone. Christ has taken that on long ago.

It may be tempting to think that you have come to this altar to change your new husband. If you don’t think it now, there may be times in the future you might be convinced that is your job.

It is tempting to think you have a better plan for his way of being. But be very wary of having a plan for how anyone can change. When you are dealing with another person’s identity, you are on sacred ground. Take off your shoes where you stand.

If you will both remember this temple altar and be devoted to the Lord who unites you, He will change both of you as you submit your heart to Him. You don’t need to do His work for your spouse.

A repenting couple is a happy couple–repenting particularly in the sense that you are both humble and willing to enlarge your understanding and perspective, willing to change what is trivial and weak about yourself.

Both of you can remember that you are coming to marriage to take a journey together back into the Lord’s presence. That means you are both committed to finding an expanded, better version of yourself and you trust that the Lord’s gift can work this in you. It is, in fact, only the Lord’s gift that can work this in you.

Create Holy Habits

Couples create a culture together. It is their own new world that they create. You’ve seen couples who become fat together or sloppy together or mean spirited together.

From this moment onward, you will be the greatest influence in each other’s life. Decide to become devoted disciples of Jesus Christ together. Pray together morning and night. Life will be hectic and demanding. You may feel that there is so much to do that you have to just hit the ground running to even survive. But build into your very system this unshakeable habit of talking to the Lord together.

This comes with some really practical advice. Go to bed at the same time. That bedtime practice matters because this is your time to talk, to download your day, to share your sorrows and find your solutions—and, of course, say your prayers.

In your prayers remember to express your gratitude for each other in the most specific ways. Be grateful for the gifts you gave each other that day and the service that was rendered. Watch each day for the inspiration that the Lord has given you. Remember it and thank him aloud and specifically in your prayers for His gift to you this day.

Of course read your scriptures, attend the temple, watch for opportunities to serve. Say to yourselves from the beginning, this is who we are, this is what we do.

This is like a mission statement for you as a couple. Put it in place as a foundation and then when the winds blow, when life is wearying, when you are overwhelmed, you have these holy habits in place—and then everything is easier.

Read more at Meridian Magazine

 

How serving an LDS mission prepared me for motherhood
(Image via Deseret News)

(Source: Deseret News; By: Emmilie Whitlock) 

I have always admired the two young men who knocked on my family’s door when I was 5. They taught us about the faith I have grown to love, and I made a goal at an early age I would be a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when I was older. And in 2010, I became just that.

The 18 months I spent proselyting in Billings, Montana, were some of the best in my life, but I could have never imagined how serving in the community and teaching people about my faith would prepare me for motherhood. As I begin the daunting task of raising my daughter, I frequently look back on these six things I learned as a missionary:

1. Establish a righteous routine. As a missionary, two hours of each morning are devoted to studying the word of God, both individually and with your missionary companion. The leader of my mission, called a mission president, named this our “righteous routine.” Now in our home, we try to create a righteous routine each night. Now, don’t think we spend two hours studying the scriptures. Good heavens, no! But my husband and I try (quite imperfectly, I might add) to study the scriptures individually and as a couple. We also pray individually and as a couple. It makes a world of difference. By making God a priority in our busy and exhausting schedules, it helps us focus on what matters most. We come closer together as a couple. This also establishes good, wholesome patterns as our family continues to grow.

2. Be flexible. For the Whitlocks, parenthood is becoming synonymous with flexibility. Maybe you’ve heard, but the thing about babies? That patience skill is not so refined. As a missionary I spent 30 minutes each night planning the events of our upcoming day, complete with backup plans for each. Inevitably, there were (many) days that every one of those plans fell through. It taught me the valuable lesson of going with the flow. It’s not worth getting frustrated if things don’t go exactly as you plan them. Instead, it was about making the most of each minute we had. I plan to do the same with my sweet daughter.

Read more at Deseret News