All posts by Shelah

About Shelah

(Editor-in-Chief) lives in Salt Lake City with her husband and six kids. She has a BA in English Teaching from BYU, an MA in American Culture Studies from Washington University in St. Louis, and an MFA in Creative Writing at BYU. Her work has been published in Dialogue, the Mormon Women Project, Irreantum, BYU Studies, and Segullah. When she’s not writing or wrangling, she can often be found running through the city in the pre-dawn darkness.

Book Review: Women at Church by Neylan McBaine

Women at ChurchIn the Sunday morning session of General Conference this weekend, President Eyring told the story of how he traveled to a “small city far away” to confer the sealing power on a man whose “hands showed the signs of a lifetime of tilling the soil for a meager living.” The man’s wife sat in the room, weeping, and when President Eyring asked her how she felt, “She looked up and then said timidly that she was happy but also sad. She said that she had so loved going to the temple with her husband but that now she felt that she should not go with him because God had chosen him for so glorious and sacred a trust. Then she said that her feeling of being inadequate to be his temple companion came because she could neither read nor write.” President Eyring reassured her and spoke to her about her spiritual gifts, and her great faith in the gospel.

What struck me about this exchange was not just the kindness President Eyring showed, or his ability to discern that this sister had received personal revelations which she held dear, but the fact that her husband’s new church responsibilities highlighted her own feelings of inadequacy. While I don’t know enough about this woman’s life experience to even begin to guess whether her church experiences or experiences in her culture of origin helped shape this feeling, the anecdote highlights the fact that women in the church can struggle with feeling less than their male counterparts.  We see men on the stand every Sunday. Our boys pass the sacrament. Few women have the opportunity to work in church leadership. Our religious language is often gendered. There are so few female voices and role models and leaders for us to turn to as examples. As more women work closely with men in the workplace and work toward egalitarian relationships with their male partners, church may be one of the few places where women may feel limited by their gender. I’m not saying that every woman feels this way; many women feel that their membership in the church empowers them. I just want the church to be a place where every member can feel that she belongs.

But enough about me, let’s talk about McBaine’s important book, Women at Church: Magnifying LDS Women’s Local Impact. First, I want to talk about something the book doesn’t do– in a time when the ordination of women has been a hot-button issue, Women at Church doesn’t doesn’t address female ordination. Instead it’s a primer for what leaders and everyday members can do to capitalize on the talents of women in the church. McBaine lays out the mission of the book in the opening sentence: “This book is predicated on a single belief: that there is much more we can do to see, hear, and include women at church.” She continues, “I have written this book as an inducement toward greater empathy for those who feel unseen, unheard, and unused, and a strategic guide to improving our gender cooperation in local Church governance.” Continue reading

Faces of Latter-day Saint Women: An Interview with Neylan McBaine

What inspired you to write Women at Church?

Because I founded the Mormon Women Project almost five years ago, I’ve had the opportunity to interview hundreds of LDS women through that effort. The MWP was founded as an attempt to highlight the beauty and variety of our female membership, in hopes that Mormon women would have a wider range of models to admire and follow. It’s been an immensely rewarding journey for me, and along the way, I started getting asked to speak and write about women in the Church. Inevitably, along with the inspiring stories I’ve heard and read over the past several years, I’ve encountered too the pain and sense of betrayal that some of our women face at church. I see the effort to make women more comfortable at Church to be consistent with my effort to highlight the diversity of our membership: it’s all an effort to widen our embrace of each other, inspire empathy, and emphasize the broad range of contributions we women make to our communities and to the Church.

The book itself wasn’t my idea; I credit Brad Kramer of Greg Kofford Books for asking me to write it. It took some courage and a lot of spiritual prompting to actually sit down and do it. I wrote the book in five months, but really I was writing it for years before that as I’ve been thinking about these matters. Continue reading

The List

photo

I was about ten the first time I got my hands on a planner, and it made a monster out of me. I filled it up with every homework assignment and dance class, and delighted in checking the items off my list when I had completed them. In college, I was one of the girls who carried her Franklin planner everywhere (you know, the ones you probably laughed at), and today, I’m a slave to the Cozi app on my phone, which allows me to create lists not only for myself, but for everyone else in my family.

One of my favorite novels, Wallace Stegner’s Crossing to Safety, chronicles the friendships of two couples, the Langs and the Morgans. Charity Lang starts each morning in bed, creating her the list of things she wants everyone in the family to accomplish. While my recollection of the story is that the visiting Morgans seem a little annoyed by Charity’s micromanaging ways, I feel that I identify with her more in this scene than any other place in the novel.  Continue reading

Book Review: Girls Who Choose God by McArthur Krishna and Bethany Brady Spalding

Girls_Who_Choose_GodDaniel and the lions’ den. Noah’s ark. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and the fiery furnace. Nephi and the broken bow. What do these stories (and hundreds more like them) have in common? Well, for one thing, they all feature men who are faced with a moral dilemma. Children in Primary and Sunday School classes learn to emulate them. But as the mother of three young daughters, I often wish we knew the stories of women in the scriptures as well as we do the stories of their male counterparts.

Girls Who Choose God, a new picture book written by McArthur Krishna and Bethany Brady Spalding, illustrated by Kathleen Peterson, and published by Deseret Book, goes a long way to filling the gap. The picture book, which features a dozen women from the Bible, including Eve, Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, the prophet Deborah, and other, lesser-known women, follows a particularly effective format. On the first page spread, each woman’s story is introduced, including the moral dilemma she faces. For example, we learn that “Esther had a choice to make. She could keep her luxurious like as the queen, or she could try to save her people by telling the king she was also a Jew.” On the second page spread, Krishna and Spalding recount the choices the women make, then they ask readers to apply the story to their own lives. The Esther story concludes with the question, “When have you made a choice to stand up for others?” This allows readers to see that each woman faced a choice, and that it’s possible to make courages choices like they did.

The book is also beautifully illustrated. Peterson’s drawings brought me to tears at times– I particularly loved the Mary Magdalene and Eve drawings. The Miriam story features an Egyptian-style border that’s incredibly beautiful. Peterson’s work is currently featured in the “Practicing Charity” exhibit at the Church History Museum, and the illustrations are a real asset to the book.

I can envision myself using this book in family scripture study, for Family Home Evening lessons and for Sharing Time lessons. My third-grade daughter made off with it the night we got our copy, and read the whole thing from cover to cover before bedtime. It’s a book our sons and our daughters should read, because all readers, regardless of gender will benefit from the stories of these women.

As an added bonus, all proceeds from the book will benefit Interweave Solutions, a nonprofit dedicated to support educational and employment opportunities for LDS women around the world.

Faces of Latter-day Saint Women: A Conversation with Dr. Christina Hibbert

On Monday, we featured a book review of Dr. Christina Hibbert’s memoir, This is How We Grow, the story of how she and her family adapted and changed after her sister and brother-in-law died and the Hibberts adopted their two sons. Today, we’re resurrecting a feature we used to have in the print journal, the “Faces of Latter-day Saint Women” interviews, and I was delighted to be able to have this conversation with Dr. Hibbert:

Talk a little bit about the process of writing the memoir. When you were writing in your journal while you were going through the process, did you think that you might eventually turn this experience into a book?

I had wanted to write a book for many years prior to the experiences I share in This is How We Grow. I’d even begun writing a book about my little sister, McLean, who died when she was 8 years old from cancer. But then, my sister Shannon died just two months after her husband had died. I suddenly had six kids, and my life changed completely; I thought, “I’ll never be able to write a book now.” 

A few months later, as I was journaling (I’ve been an avid journaler for as long as I can remember), I had a feeling, Someday, you will write this story. I didn’t tell anyone about it, but it was in the back of my mind with every journal entry from that point on. Even though life was too full to add any career pursuits, including writing a book, I soon figured I could at least write a little each day. Each night I’d write in a notebook (not my journal) for 10 minutes about whatever topic was on my mind at the time.  Continue reading