Sunday, January 22, 2012

The complexity of being a woman with a degree.

Sorry, this may be more of a venting post than a spiritual one. But maybe someone else feels the same way.

Today I decided to read an issue of the Clark Memorandum that I found lying around. The CM is the journal for the J. Reuben Clark Law Society, to which I am associated by virtue of graduating from the school of the same name. I read an article about gender bias in law practice, written by a wonderful LDS lady, mother of 6, and presiding judge of the Riverside Superior Court, Hon. Sherrill A. Ellsworth. She talked about how she faced a lot of criticism from other women in the Church because of her decision to practice law and pursue a career. She hired her mom as an assistant and kept her baby at the office with her until she felt he was ready for pre-school. She made sure to keep her kids a priority. And she became a very successful, respected judge.

I have a lot of internal reactions to this kind of article or discussion when I come upon them. Here are the main ones:

1. Wow, she did so much while still being a good mom. Every time I think about doing something for just a few hours a week from home, I get overwhelmed and give up. Not to mention that I am seriously intimidated by the idea of trying to jump into practice when I haven't so much as looked up a statute in 2 1/2 years now. I am such a lazy coward with no life management skills. I am inadequate because I am "only" staying home.

Wrong reaction.

2. I don't think I could go to work full time with young kids. At times I've probably been one of those judgmental women who made this hard for people like her. I do believe that it is best for the mother to stay home with kids. I feel like I am doing the right thing by staying home. How do I reconcile that her decision was right for her and mine is right for me? Isn't there one right answer?

Wrong answer.

3. Why did I get this law degree in the first place? I am just proving all those lame guys right who made remarks like, "You are taking the place of some hard-working father who needs to provide for his family." I would joke sometimes that I wasn't going to study as hard, "I'll leave the top ten to the guys who really need jobs." That was self-defeating and I knew it. But was there truth to it?

Wrong again.

Even though our circumstances are very different, I think judge Ellsworth and I are struggling against the same thing. After I returned from my mission, I went to Japan for the summer to spend time with my grandparents and do some genealogy research. When I told a couple of ladies in the ward that I would be starting law school in the fall, one said, with a completely straight face, "Why don't you want to get married?" Seriously? Are those things mutually exclusive? (Also, hello, why do you think I'm going to BYU?) Why should I have to explain myself? Because we are women, and especially because we are mothers, there is some expectation that we have to explain ourselves for doing anything that is not directly associated with traditional motherhood. As she points out, women generally don't get criticized for getting a degree in education or nursing--things more typically associated with women. Yet she has to explain why she practices. I have to explain why I got a law degree but am not practicing. We somehow have to justify ourselves to everyone else's expectations or standards.

And yet, the only thing that should matter to me is what the Lord wants me to do for my family right now. If that means I get a job, so be it. If that means I stay home, so be it. It's between myself, my husband, and the Lord. Judge Ellsworth has done a great work, opened doors, and garnered a lot of respect for LDS women. I can appreciate her contributions without judgment or comparison. I have no place interjecting myself into whatever conversations she has had with the Lord about her choices and her path. And I can ignore anyone who tries to interject themselves in mine.

Of course, that is easier said than done. You can still guarantee that I'll go through this whole process in my head every time someone asks me about my 'legal career.'

p.s. I love this article. So true.

Friday, January 20, 2012

A WOW Wake-up call p.s.

Want to feel better about that post c/o the Widtsoes?

In the epilogue to the biography, Elder Widtsoe's grandchildren share that it was Sister Widtsoe who was very strict with their diet, and Elder Widtsoe liked to sneak treats and take them to his childrens' homes. During family outings he would pretend that the car was independently taking them to the ice cream shop against his will, while Sister Widtsoe contested. It was kind of a family joke.

I still want to do better, but I don't feel quite as bad now =)

Divine love, eternal marriage.

A family friend said something funny but all too true to me last week: "Once you get married, it's like you never get to see your husband. That's why it's for time and all eternity; that's the only time you'll ever see them." Her husband is currently the stake president =).
I think this is what people in successful marriages understand: the goal isn't for the marriage to make us happy, or for our spouse to make us happy. The marriage unites us in a common journey toward a greater goal--eternal life. It's the toil and the work in that cause that will make us happy. A good quote from SWK:

"Divine love is not like that association of the world which is misnamed love, but which is mostly physical attraction. The love of which the Lord speaks is not only physical attraction, but also faith, confidence, understanding, and partnership. It is devotion and companionship, parenthood, common ideals and standards. It is cleanliness of life and sacrifice and unselfishness. This kind of love never tires nor wanes. It lives on through sickness and sorrow, through prosperity and privation, through accomplishment and disappointment, through time and eternity” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 1982, 248).

Monday, January 9, 2012

WOW Wake-up call!

 Hold on to your hats... these quotes are a doozy! I've got a lot of work to do.

"We shouldn't be sick, the Lord didn't intend it. . . . people shouldn't be sick. The Lord gave us the Word of Wisdom to keep us well and if we're sick, its our own fault, because we don't know any better. I have reached 91 years and I haven't an ache or a pain in any part of my body. . . I've outlived my grandparents, and my parents by 15 years, and I attribute it to my observance of the Word of Wisdom."
-Oral history interview with Leah Eudora Widtsoe, 11 February 1965, 7, Leah D. Widtsoe Papers, BYU Special Collections.

"The greatest reward of keeping these laws of health and refraining from undermining practices is the mastery which man acquires over his body, and the self-control which he develops and maintains. The power of the human will to say 'no' to evil, and 'yes' to good is the supreme test of mortal achievement. When so exercised, one may know that mortal life is being lived in its fullness."
-Leah D. Widtsoe, "Religion and Health," Millenial Star, April 1930, 283.

"Cola drinks contain the drug, caffeine. For that reason, every argument used against coffee and tea, and some other arguments, may be used against cola drinks, and all other beverages containing caffeine, even in small amounts. They are determined habit formers and may lead to the coffee and tea habit. They injure human health."
-John A. Widtsoe, "Caffeine in Cola Drinks," Improvement Era, November 1939, 659.

"In the true Gospel of Jesus Christ, the sanctity of the body is second only to that of the spirit. It is the duty, as well as the desire, of every person to preserve his physical health, so that he may live out most completely the destiny of his existence."
-John A. Widtsoe, "The Word of Wisdom," Millennial Star, 3 November 1932, 714.

"[I]t is evident that the people of the Church are not observing fully all the factors of health as given in the Word of Wisdom, else they would have an even greater immunity from all diseases."

"Too much of the modern food supply comes from tin cans or packages, for often women as well as men work in factories and offices, and the can opener is coming to be the most used kitchen implement."
-John A. and Leah E. Widtsoe, The Word of Wisdom, 6, 11-12.

"A person who cannot obey a temporal law, such as the Word of Wisdom, seldom can obey spiritual laws, which reach more profoundly into the nature of man. That is, those who are living the high spiritual laws of the Gospel, true saints, must have achieved sufficient desire and power of will to obey the temporal commandment known as the Word of Wisdom. Unless they have done so, the spiritual integrity of such persons may be called into question."
-Id. 21.

"The essential thought remains, that to abstain from the things forbidden in the Word of Wisdom as injurious to health is not sufficient; it is equally important to partake of foods that build the body properly and meet bodily needs. Men may heed the laws of life and live; or they may ignore or pervert them and suffer disease and finally perish."
-Id., 119.

Aaaaand here is the kicker:

"John's discussion of cocoa and chocolate may be less popular than his teachings about cola drinks. He reported that cocoa beans, from which chocolate is made, contain theobromine, a close relative of caffeine. Perhaps as dangerous as theobromine, he wrote, are the sugary preparations that accompany it in chocolate mixes. They are a menace to human health. Theobromine acts upon the body, especially upon the kidneys, very much as does caffeine. While it does not have as strong an effect upon the central nervous system, it is more irritating to the kidneys.' He was especially concerned about the danger chocolate poses to children. Experiments had shown that it reduces the availability of needed calcium and phosphorus, especially in the digestion of milk. 'The chocolate milk used extensively for school children should be eliminated. To thus adulterate nature's finest food for children seems almost criminal.'"
-Parrish, p. 586-87, Quoting Id., 88.


"That the expression 'hot drinks' was used in the Word of Wisdom rather than 'coffee and tea,' is notable; for by so doing a host of other injurious habit-forming beverages now used (or that may be used) become subject to the Word of WIsdom. Indeed the use of the words 'hot drinks' implies a knowledge beyond that possessed by man when the Word of Wisdom was received. It is remarkable indeed that Joseph Smith could so boldly declare himself against coffee and tea, as against all similar beverages, at a time when the world's learning could not safely make the statement."
-Widtsoe and Widtsoe, Word of Wisdom, 90.

Things to remember: This was not published by the Church, but by Elder Widtsoe, who was an Apostle. His and his wife's book on the Word of Wisdom was used as a course of study for the Priesthood in 1938, and several of these quotes were published in the Improvement Era, the predecessor of today's Ensign magazine. Still, the topics were plenty controversial in their time, and still are today.

I am reminded of something an institute teacher of mine said. He was diabetic, and expressed that he felt that for him, eating sugary foods--any at all--was breaking the Word of Wisdom because he was purposely putting something in his body that he knew was threatening to his health. And we can all adapt the commandments in our daily lives in that way, using the Spirit rather than the letter (or using the Spirit to understand the letter) of the law in our lives. We'll see how soon I get around to giving up chocolate =)


"There can be no purpose more noble, more soul satisfying, more God-given than to be the mistress and intelligent maker of a happy home."

-Leah Eudora Dunford (Widtsoe), "A Visit to the Pratt Institute," Young Woman's Journal, March 1897, 249-59.

Knowledge, Belief, and Faith

"Two words, 'We believe,' introduce each, save one, of the Articles of Faith. These are words which in all ages have made human history. As men have believed they have lived, labored, and died. When men's beliefs have conformed to truth, peace and prosperity have entered the world; when false, darkness, hate and chaos have ruled. 'As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he;' but as a man believeth, so does he. The potency of life lies in our beliefs."

"Knowledge, properly tested, becomes belief. Belief, put to the test of prayer and human use, in turn becomes faith, which is the higher, perfected knowledge."

 -John A. Widtsoe, "We Believe," Improvement Era, April 1935, in Alan K. Parrish, John A. Widtsoe: A Biography, 568-69.