Saturday, 3 November 2007

NYT article: The Feminine Critique

I'd love to hear your thoughts about this story in the New York Times. What has been your experience with competition in the workplace? Would you attribute your ability/inability to inspire, delegate, compete, and negotiate to gender, or to personality/experience, etc? Finally, what female leaders have been role models for you?

(As a side note, Lisa Belkin, has written books and scores of articles about her "Opt-Out" theory, which argues that women aren't professional equals of men because they simply don't want to be.)

Saturday, 4 August 2007

Define preside . . .

Since it has been almost two months since anyone has posted, I thought I would post something that has been percolating in my mind for a while: the definition of the word preside.

Yesterday at work I realized that I have only ever talked about my feminist leanings with people who are also sympathetic to the feminist cause. Well, the topic of feminism arose and I found myself having to describe, define, and defend some of my opinions. I tend to be an emotionally charged person, so it was rather difficult to attempt eloquence and to not get flustered. I felt like things went fairly well, and it was an enlightening conversation. Luckily, I was accompanied by a fellow feminist friend named Katherine.

While discussing the Proclamation to the World, Katherine and I were discussing problematic vocabulary. I feel particularly sensitive to the word preside. So, my co-workers and I tried to come up with a more concrete definition. Do we (as a church) really know what is meant by the charge given to men to "provide and preside"? I find preside to be a somewhat empty word-- one that is tossed around without any type of consensus on the implications. Here are some possible implications we discussed:

1. Much as President Hinckley presides over the First Presidency and the apostles, the husband/father presides over the family.
a. President Hinckley holds the Priesthood keys and the authority to use them. A father holds the Priesthood keys giving him the responsibility to give blessings-- both of comfort and of healing-- to his wife and children.
b. When a decision is made among the apostles and First Presidency, a unanimous vote is the only way in which something is made final. President Hinckley cannot use his position as presider to overrule decisions or to be "the final say." This is further discussed in number 2.

2. A woman and man are to make decisions together. I have heard it said that if a couple is in an argument, and no consensus can be reached, then someone needs to have the definitive decision, and this is what it means to preside. To me, this is not equality.

3. I have also heard it said that, "well, someone needs to be in charge, or everything would be chaos!" I find this statement fallacious. While there does need to be a head of a family, there is no logical reason for the head not to consist of both the husband and the wife.

4. A stake and a family are similar, but not the same. As a stake president presides over his stake, a father presides over his family much in the way I already discussed with President Hinckley. A stake, however, does need a firm and single head. Counselors work in the absence and alongside the stake president, but this is the way in which a husband and wife are different from a stake presidency. A woman should not function as a counselor, but rather as a co-president with her husband.

5. Another work friend said she asked her husband what he thought preside meant, and he said he thought it meant to protect. I am much more comfortable with this word. I find the word protect to connote more of a nurturing aspect. As women are to nurture the family, this seems much more balanced-- both mother and father can and should nurture.

So there are my five definitional statements about preside. What have I left out? On what items have I committed an oversight or an irrational comparison? (Honestly, I want to know what you think on my five statements.)

One very problematic issue I wonder about it is, where is the disconnect between doctrine and culture? As one of my male co-workers pointed out, men are constantly instructed to not exercise unrighteous dominion. They are chastised for not recognizing the women in their lives as equals. If the doctrine encourages equality between men and women, how does the culture so often misinterpret words like preside to mean dominate, abuse, manipulate, etc. While I know this is not a universal problem, I know it is a common problem. So, where is the disconnect between the culture and the doctrine? I wonder if the church clings too tightly to the old-fashioned, traditional views from before 1960 because we are too afraid of being tainted by modernism. I really don't know the answer, and I don't know the solution. I often hope for a change of discourse in how we describe gender roles. I would much prefer a substitute word for preside-- I do find it slightly overused and therefore nearly empty in meaning. I am afraid using such a word is more damaging than helpful, and maybe a new shock of words would bring some more life in to old-news principles. But change is very slow coming in the church. What do you think are some possible solutions to this problem? Or do you think I am off-base and over-sensitive (this is entirely possible)? What does preside mean to you?

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Less superficial than the last one, I promise!

So, to make up for a fluffy post about clothes, and in light of our recent discussion about modesty, I thought I would bring up another appearance-related topic. My RS lesson last Sunday was about a BYU devotional given last fall by Douglas L. Callister of the 70, entitled Our Refined Heavenly Home. I thought it was pretty interesting. Elder Callister describes his remarks as an attempt to

[P]eek behind the veil that temporarily separates us from our heavenly home and paint a word picture of the virtuous, lovely, and refined circumstances that exist there. I will speak of the language, literature, music, and art of heaven, as well as the immaculate appearance of heavenly beings, for I believe that in heaven we will find each of these in pure and perfected form.

The entire devotional was pretty interesting, and I definitely took some "action items" away from it. However, I was intrigued/puzzled by the section on appearance, which begins with this anecdote:

Many years ago an associate of mine decided he would please his wife by sharing with her a very specific compliment each night as he arrived home. One night he praised her cooking. A second night he thanked her for excellence in housekeeping. A third night he acknowledged her fine influence on the children. The fourth night, before he could speak, she said, “I know what you are doing. I thank you for it. But don’t say any of those things. Just tell me you think I am beautiful.”

She expressed an important need that she had. Women ought to be praised for all the gifts they possess that so unselfishly add to the richness of our lives, including their attentiveness to their personal appearance. We must not “let ourselves go” and become so casual—even sloppy—in our appearance that we distance ourselves from the beauty heaven has given us. Every man has the right to be married to a woman who makes herself as beautiful as she can be. Every woman has the right to be married to a man who keeps himself clean, physically as well as morally, and takes pride in his appearance.

Obviously, Elder Callister feels strongly that appearances matter. I don't disagree with him, but he never says why. Also, his story doesn't sit quite right with me, either. Again, it's not that I disagree with the premise that a couple telling each other that they are beautiful is appropriate and good... but why should complimenting your spouse on their superficial appearance be more important than their actual accomplishments? Also, I was struck by the dichotomy that women should "make themselves beautiful" while men should be "clean".

Maybe I'm just reading it too hostilely :) And really, I did enjoy this talk a lot. And if there's discussion on it (which I hope there is!) I don't mean for it to be about only this aspect. Any thoughts?

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Another excuse to "need" more clothes

I just heard about a new fashion magazine that will feature only modest clothing... looks pretty sweet to me! (Although it does nothing to stem my growing clothes addiction, fed by the fact that I still live at home and hence treat all my income as disposable.) Anyway:

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Expanding our universes

"So, I am sure we are all experiencing new and wonderful things in our lives that are changing how we think about the world - including new books, travels, conversations, food, films, jobs, scents -- anything.

I think it's time we share some of these things with each other."

Kudos to Alexandra!


- My beautiful little boy!!

- A River Runs Through It - both the book and the movie.
Some of my favorite quotes:
"You can love completely without complete understanding."
"How can a question be answered that asks a lifetime of questions?"
"It is those we live with and love and should know who elude us."
The author, Norman Maclean, was a professor at the University of Chicago - how fitting. Besides, it's a true story, and it beautifully describes the masterful art of fly fishing.

- Lamb Shawerma with vegetables, Middle Eastern rice and pita bread.

Friday, 18 May 2007

Remix: Abraham and Isaac

I talked about this briefly with Alexandra the other day, and decided to post on it. I am taking a Bible as Lit class, and on our first day of class, we discussed Abraham and Isaac. Of course, I always prescribed to the amazing story of faith. When we discussed it in class, it kind of rocked me a little. Here's a rough paper on some of my thoughts. They are by no means complete thoughts, just a little something to hopefully get some conversation churning (I hope). And, um. I don't know what's going on with the font. Sorry.

The ultimate story of faith: Abraham, unquestioningly diligent in following the word of God, trudges up the Mount of the Lord to sacrifice his beloved son. The Hebrew term for this long-disputed story is the Akedah, or, the Binding of Isaac. Early rabbinic interpretations quote God, "
'I never considered telling Abraham to slaughter Isaac' (using the Hebrew root letters for "slaughter", not 'sacrifice'.)" (McInerny). Rather than a test of loyalty, in seeing if Abraham would kill his beloved son, Rabbi Yona Ibn Janach claimed the commanded sacrifice was meant to be symbolic.

God puts Abraham in quite the moral dilemma: Obey God, commit murder. Save Isaac, disobey God. Even the LDS cover answer for divinely appointed murder cannot fit: there is no risk of an entire nation dwindling in disbelief based on Isaac's living. In fact, God has already covenanted with Abraham in Genesis 21:12 that Abraham's seed will be preserved through Isaac. Theology professors Caspi and Kramer argue that "[Isaac] went together with his father (perhaps having dialogue with his father about the meaning of the sacrifice). In this way, Isaac actively participated in the non-tragic drama of the Akedah" ("Response"). As Sherryll Mleynek rebuts, "There is no textual basis that Abraham knows this is a test. [Caspi and Kramer's] attribution of a second 'dialogue' appears to be based on the wish for such in the context of faith, rather than on any exegetical justification" ("Rejoinder"). The end result that this is a just a test of Abraham's faith is irrelevant to Abraham. Because the text does not support Abraham's understanding, it cannot be assumed. To Abraham, the question truly is, would God have me kill my son? If God had covenanted with Abraham that Abraham's seed would come through Isaac, could it come from God to kill Isaac?

The authoritative Christian reading is that Isaac is a precursor to Jesus. Just as God, the Father, must sacrifice his own son, Abraham must sacrifice his son, like a lamb to the slaughter. Even if this is meant to be a type of Christ, it is incomplete, because Abraham's hand was stayed. How is this taste of sacrifice meant to shed light on the Atonement or the Crucifixion? As a type of Christ, Isaac's sacrifice would have had to accomplish something. Isaac's sacrifice would need to act as a catalyst for something greater, as Jesus' death was the catalyst for the salvation and resurrection for humanity.

While a Christian, type-of-Christ application is irrelevant to the Jewish reader, a Hasidic reading of the text interprets Abraham's inner battle as the pertinent issue. The test was not of Abraham's faith, but of his emotions. "For our Hasidism, had he felt love or pity for Isaac at the akedah, Abraham would have failed the test, even had he sacrificed Isaac!" (Gellam). Abraham had to prove his total devotion to and love for God by eradicating his feelings toward his son.

The Genesis account does not state this is a test of Abraham's faith: "God did tempt Abraham" (Gen. 22:1). Early rabbinic interpretations of the Akedah also refute the notion of a test of faith: "Abraham's imagination led him astray, making him believe that he had been commanded to sacrifice his son" (McInerny). Rabbi Yosef Ibn Caspi asked "how could God command such a revolting thing?" (McInerny). The divine intervention which prevents the actual sacrifice is curious. God commands/tests/tempts Abraham to sacrifice his son. Surely such a grave command would need to come directly from God in order to be believed, yet when Abraham's hand is stayed, it is on the errand of an angel. If God gave the commandment, would God not need to be the one to revoke it? God shows his mercy and love repeatedly. In his destruction of Sodom, God tells Abraham he would refrain from destroying the city if there were but fifty, then forty-five, then forty, then thirty, then twenty, then ten righteous people. God seems to want to give the benefit of the doubt to his people. The evidence suggests a fair, rational, loving God. Commanding a father to sacrifice his son just as a test of faith is not only unjust, it is cruel and sadistic. The only way to rectify this seemingly cruel joke, is to use the evidence: "God did tempt Abraham." Consistent with God's character, battling temptations are the way to test and prove faith. If God did tempt Abraham, as Genesis states, Abraham was not meant to carry out the sacrifice; Abraham was not meant to attempt the sacrifice. When Abraham yields to temptation, an angel of the Lord stays his hand.

The Akedah may be similar to that of David and Saul: a cautionary tale. God is consistent; man rarely is. When Abraham felt tempted to sacrifice his son, he was tempted with the current trend.
Human sacrifice was a common thing in Abraham's day: as evidenced by Abraham's father's actions. Rarely does God command his child to follow the current trend. "Unlike the cruel heathen deities, it was the spiritual surrender alone that God required" (McInerny). God is constant and sure. While a story of unwaivering faith is the most common as the interpretation of Abraham and Isaac, a story of temptation is the only one to make sense.

Saturday, 12 May 2007

Shakin things up...

This afternoon Al and I were talking about how to stimulate more discussion on the blog. It's kind of a crazy time for a lot of us--between babies and graduations and theses and new jobs etc--and so I think FQI is less active than some of us (me?) might want.

One idea we had was to open the blog up to comments from non-bloggers. I think two big pros of this would be to (1) revitalize discussions and (2) bring in some other perspectives to issues that we discuss.

What do you think? Since it's kind of a big change, we'd like to get as many opinions as possible. Also, if we do end up opening up the blog, we want to give everyone the chance to remove whatever personal information they'd like to.


Monday, 7 May 2007

Intro Post

Hi guys!

I'm Jenn, a first year law student at the University of Chicago, and I know Allison through the law school. I'm new to both blogging and religion, which makes this blog an apt one for me to learn about both. I've never been particularly religious, but with the conversion of a close college friend to the LDS faith and other LDS influences in my life, I've come to treasure and appreciate how faith and the gospel have enriched my life. However, with that faith have come ideological struggles with balancing faith, advanced degrees (especially with loans), the prospect of motherhood (however distant that may be), and all of the other tricky things that seem to come with being a woman of faith. I'm eager to hear how others who have been in this position for far longer than I wrestle with some of these tricky ideas.

Looking forward to getting to know all of you!

Expanding our universes

So, I am sure we are all experiencing new and wonderful things in our lives that are changing how we think about the world - including new books, travels, conversations, food, films, jobs, scents -- anything.

I think it's time we share some of these things with each other.

-Arab baths: wading from pool to pool, a tepid pool, a hot pool, a freezing pool, a salt pool, a jetted pool, an aromatherapy room, a sauna room; see here. I don't understand why spas across the world haven't embraced this ingenious practice - I have never been more relaxed and my skin has never been softer.

-The scent of orange trees. Inexplicably fresh and delicious.

-Lectures on Faith. What does "faith unto life and salvation" mean?

-The Mezquita Catedral. Iconic images:

-Brie, tomato and basil sandwiches on a fresh baguette. Or, brie, tomato and avocado.

-"Ti regalero una rosa" by Simone Cristicchi, winner of the San Remo Song Festival. Lyrics here - those who cannot handle Sylvia Plath, beware.

-Chocolate-covered matzo (thanks Kathryn).

Silver clouds

You know those Chevy Chase movies where everything sort-of falls apart, like one thing after another? Well, my family vacations were actually like that (think extensive "scenic detours" and imploding motorhomes) and as amusing-slash-disastrous as that was growing up, I had always planned on my own vacations being a little more peaceful and vacation-like.


My trip to Spain with Emma and Ade turned out to be similarly amusing-slash-disastrous (think disastrous in the sense that no one died, no long-term damage was done etc, just materially unfortunate). To quickly sum up the dramatic highlights: I lost my wallet (in Cambridge) including my passport, bankcards and allll my cash, missed my flight to Barcelona, had to wait four days to sort anything out since everything was closed for Easter weekend, had to travel to the us embassy and buy an emergency passport, buy a new flight, finally made it to Spain where my bankcard didn't work (sorry Emma), got food poisoning in Toledo, was sick in the Madrid metro (sorry Madrillenos), then after barely making it back to Cambridge, my bike and I had a serious altercation with the pavement of Mill Road where I left behind patches of clothing and skin. Basically I'm not going to travel or eat gazpacho for a really long time - BUT that's not the point: even though with each new thing I was increasingly uncomfortable, I increasingly appreciated - on a really personal, immediate level - the power of human kindness.

For example, when I finished crawling around the bus floor in search of my wallet, the bus driver asked me if I had enough money to make a phone call and pressed a two pound coin into my hand.

When I realized I would be staying in Cambridge for the weekend and didn't really have any food in my flat, a friend in my ward invited me to a picnic with her and her children - her daughter drew me a card, my friend brought me lunch and she also brought the children's book "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" for us to read, haha.

When I was ill on the metro, Emma not only held my hair back but gave me her coat to be sick into!

When I crashed my bicycle, a man on the side of the street yelled, "aaugh!" and ran to collect me and my belongings from the pavement and guided me to the sidewalk.

Even though losing my wallet, wrecking my bike etc were all just superficial unpleasant experiences, the sweetness of human kindness was like some wonderful nectar, some really profound force that sustained me in the moment and has made this past month one of my most treasured times in Cambridge. I'm really not being sappy here, right? I just want to share how I have been blessed by dear dear people who, whether they knew me or not, loved me and helped me when I was having a rough moment - and, in doing so, allowed me to glimpse the world as a place where charity and goodness do rule -- how beautiful!

Friday, 27 April 2007

On the road..

To partially excuse lack of posting - some pictures from when Alexandra, Ade and I were in Spain two weeks ago!

Thursday, 29 March 2007

Plea for Forgiveness: I'll Never Post on Postmodernism Again.

I'm sorry Baudrillard made you all hide in your blogging shells. Here's to opening things back up for discussion!

Have any of you read Reading Lolita in Tehran? I am reading it right now for my Brit Lit class. (We, the students, can't figure out why it is Brit Lit. She wrote it in America and she is from Iran. Oh well. I am happy to read it.) A topic in the forefront is, obviously, women's rights. So, I had to write a response paper for my class today. After I read the paper to my class, discussion ensued about modesty, Dallin Oaks's famous "walking pornography" line, etc.

Here is part of my paper:

Part of this question revolves around the dress required in Iran and some other Islamic countries. These requirements are based on the Hijab, the Islamic dress code. Though interpreted very differently by different groups of people and countries, the Hijab is religious in nature. The chador is relatively liberal, when compared to the burqa, but every interpretation of the Hijab, be it a headscarf or the burqa is meant to be religious. I would imagine there are many women who follow the Hijab to varying to degrees who feel their interpretation of the Hijab is very personal, and a manifestation of their commitment to Islam. So, if this is a religious manifestation, why do I feel angry when reading about it in Reading Lolita? In my reading I found that it was the Iranian dialogue which made me angry: “Veiling is a Woman’s Protection” and “My Sister, Guard Your Veil. My Brother, Guard Your Eyes” (27). Maybe this makes me angry because it sounds all too familiar. [These were signs on Iranian streets.]

As Mormons we understand the significance of religious dress. At BYU, we understand the meaning of a dress code. Though I don’t intend to literally compare Mormon standards of modesty to wearing a burqa, I find a comparison of attitudes appropriate (i.e., I am referring to how the dress code is represented in Nafisi’s novel compared to Mormon culture). From a religious standpoint, what is the point of modesty? Mormon modesty for women is often stressed because young women should not make young men think dirty thoughts. While this is a perk of dressing modestly, (encouraging clean thoughts) it is not the doctrinal reason for doing so. How does this faulty reason for modesty undermine agency? How is modesty undermined if it is enforced based on grounds of responsibility for others’ thoughts? Should modesty be considered a social issue, rather than a personal one? Would the chador, or other interpretations of the Hijab, infringe on women’s rights if it were not enforced based on the effect of women’s sexuality on men?

Also, these women, obviously, rebel and question the laws. They take little liberties here and there to show their fight for freedom-- showing a little more hair, wearing colorful fabrics for their chador, etc. Is this kind of questioning acceptable-- in general, and for Mormons? Why or why not?

Now . . . discuss!

P.S. The picture says, "a woman modestly dressed is a pearl in its shell."

Thursday, 1 March 2007

Pet Peeve: "Auxiliary"

So, I really don't care for the term "Auxiliary" as it is used in the Church to describe Relief Society, YM, YW, and Primary. Alexandra's already heard my thoughts (rant?) on this, but I'd like to see what everyone else thinks. In the grand scheme of things, sure, it's pretty low on a scale of 1 to things that will impact our salvation. However, I still think that it comes across as somewhat misleading in terms of the role of the priesthood and women in the church; and at a time when confusion about gender roles, etc. is pretty rampant in and outside the Church, I think it's worthwhile to be as clear as possible. Also, I really believe that language and its usage are extremely powerful, and that thinking about terms like this isn't necessarily a pointless semantic exercise.

As I see it, there are two concepts that people use the word "priesthood" to refer to, and they've become conflated. The first is the Priesthood (capital p) organization, which includes the Aaronic and Melchizedik, teachers, deacons, priests, etc. etc. The term priesthood (lowercase p) is also used to refer to the power to act in God's place on earth. While the Priesthood does represent the priesthood power, in terms of very necessary ordinances, it is definitely not the only way in which humanity has the power to act as an instrument of the Lord.

Without diminishing the Priesthood's critical importance, I think it would be safe to say that the lack of any other godly power would make the Priesthood somewhat empty. As much as everyone needs priesthood power in order to achieve salvation, they also need other powers which are not necessarily confined in the Priesthood role - the role of mothering and the role of nurturing families, service, spiritual gifts, teaching, missionary work, etc. etc. In terms of the Priesthood as a counterpart to women's role in the church and eternal life, General Authorities usually make it pretty clear that these two powers are coequal, and both are necessary to attain salvation, hence the stress on the eternal nature of gender and the importance of eternal marriage.

"Auxiliary" is defined as something which aids, increases, and augments. Obviously, the role of the Relief Society and all of the Auxiliaries is to aid, increase, and augment the Priesthood. However, I would argue that it is just as important for the Priesthood to do the same for everyone else in Zion. I don't think it diminishes the cruciality (ok, not a word) of the Priesthood to acknowledge that other means of utilizing the Lord's power exist, and indeed MUST exist in tandem with Priesthood power and ordinances. To refer to the rest of the church as "auxiliary" to the Priesthood, without any real sense of congruency, somewhat distorts that relationship, I think. The Relief Society is auxiliary to the Priesthood, sure, but the Priesthood is also auxiliary to the Relief Society.

Plus, and maybe this is just my "liberal education" making me think that I'm wise, but something about calling men by a name which connotes power and referring to women and children (together) as "assisting" that power rubs me the wrong way. Not that I'm feeling particularly oppressed by the patriarchy or anything, but it just seems like a bad PR move. Obviously, that that kind of thinking doesn't determine the way the Church functions, and the Lord doesn't about PC-ness, and his ways are higher than our ways, but I feel like a little cosmetic change could make a lot of difference. (You know, the power of language thing.)

So, my questions are:
1. Does this bug anyone else too, or do I just have too much time on my hands?
2. Is this something that could/should be changed?
3. Does anyone know why RS/YW/YM/Primary got lumped into an Auxiliary category in the first place?

Wednesday, 28 February 2007

Greetings from the Windy City

Okay, so it has taken me awhile to actually post anything, but since I have now been told by my midwife to stay home from school until my little boy is born, I find I have some extra time to kill, so I thought I would introduce myself and maybe jump in on some discussions.

I have been married for 4 1/2 years to my best friend and the most wonderful man in the world, and I am currently 5 days overdue with my first child, a little boy who insists upon trying to bruise my ribs about every twenty minutes or so. Makes me wonder what he'll be like when he's actually here! Of course, I have never felt more blessed or excited for the future.

The rest of my life consists of attending the University of Chicago where I am pursuing a PhD in Assyriology (the study of Akkadian, the first written Semitic language). I am currently smack dab in the middle of my first year of courses (to many it seems crazy that I am having a baby in my first year of my PhD studies, but I figured if I waited too long, I might not be able to have as many children as I'd like and that would be a much greater regret in the long run than starting early and dealing with the challenges as they come - to everything there is a season).

That's pretty much my current life in a nutshell.

I met Alexandra last year in a one year Master's program in the Humanities here in Chicago, hence my affiliation with this blog, which I am extremely excited about, I must say. I am looking forward to getting to know all of you better!

Wednesday, 21 February 2007

Introduction to Me

Hello, readers. My name is Tania. Forgive my blog name; I have a personal blog and I use a pseudonym there, so when I post, it will be as "Jeje" which is my mission nickname. I thought I would take a moment to introduce myself to all of you before I jump into your discussions. I am a good friend of Allison's from college and am currently a graduate student at Harvard Divinity School working on a Masters in Theological Studies. I'll graduate in June and am currently trying to decide what I want to do with the rest of my life (more school, a real job, etc). Anyway, those are the basics. I'm sure you'll learn more about me as I contribute to conversations.

I do want to throw a discussion topic into the mix, which fits in with the previous post. This weekend I attended a conference at Yale which was for LDS graduate students studying religion. There were probably 50 people there discussing the issues of the field that are unique to LDS students, as well as some of the research that individuals are working on. At one point, the group ended up discussing, in a round-about way, how to react when things you study do not necessarily fit into the doctrine of the Church, or the assumed doctrine of the Church. For example: scholars generally agree that the Book of Isaiah was not all written by Isaiah, but they identify some later chapters written by someone else that they call "Deutero-Isaiah" and they give D-I later dates than Isaiah. Some of these D-I chapters are quoted in the Book of Mormon and there is some question as to whether or not it would have been possible for Lehi to have had access to these writings based on the dates. One scholar at the conference was discussing various theories he has to explain their inclusion in the Book of Mormon. It got me thinking. I realized that I have no problem seeking truth through research and study, and no problem when I can' t always reconcile, logically, the things that I believe. There are many ways of knowing things, all of which are given to us by God. I know the Church is true and that my loyalty is to the Church and the brethren who understand best what we need as a worldwide Church at this period in time. That being said, I am not afraid to ask questions or to have more questions arise in my mind. I know that I can spend an eternity finding answers, and that at some point it will all reconcile. Until then, it is fun to explore so long as I remember where my loyalty ultimately lies and that God is the source of ALL truth.

I look forward to getting to know all of you.

Monday, 12 February 2007

Intellectual Honesty; Religion and Profession

I read this NYT article today: "Believing Scripture but Playing by Science's Rules" and had a surprisingly strong reaction to both the article and the readers' responses. Quick summary (though I recommend reading the article), a man who takes a literalist reading of the Bible's Creation account (which for him includes a belief that the earth is no more than 10,000 years old) submitted a PhD thesis in paleontology working within the "conventional scientific framework" - i.e. according to evidence that the earth is at least tens of millions of years old. In response, the NYT asks this question: "Can a scientist produce intellectually honest work that contradicts deeply held religious beliefs?"

Ok, so, I think formulating the question this way is a little melodramatic because it so quickly concludes that variance in ideas suggests intellectual dishonesty. I think it is more to the point to examine the premises the question itself is built on: the dichotomy between religious and scientific truth. I realize I just threw us back three hundred years to a time when religion could still make truth claims, but I think that we can work through questions about the relationship between science and religion, philosophy and religion, etc only once we've rehabilitated religion as a possible source of truth. Ok, so all of us posting to this blog accept that religion can indeed make truth claims. By accepting that religion can claim something to be true, then it would be rational to assume that someone wouldn't operate according to religious principles if they didn't believe they were true. Similarly, it would be rational to assume that someone wouldn't operate according to scientific principlies if they didn't believe they were true. Enter two medieval philosophers trying to reconcile Platonism and Aristotelianism with Islam and Judaism, and you hear Ibn Rushd and Maimonides arguing that truth can't contradict truth and we see that somehow, religious truth and scientific truth are actually part of a greater whole. And this - this "somehow" - is where the NYT question fails, because it doesn't allow for the process that enables a response exploring how different truths could possibly be related. Of course, this response has to be done according to correct methodological principles rather than reading into science a religious belief - clearly. But to say we have to suspend our beliefs because they seem to flatly contradict what we study is reductive and irresponsible and unrealistic, no one would be able to contribute to scholarship until they had woven how everything fits together! Like, only God could publish anything. Or Kant, right before he died.

Now, pointing this toward trends within our church, people often speak of a bifurcation between spiritual and secular knowledge. That's rubbish. If something is true, it is true regardless of the source - whether it be the study of physics, philosophy, literature, music, scripture, endocrinology, whatever.

Lol, I know these issues have a million points of contention, I do realize I've argued according to lots of premises I haven't defended, but I figure this is a good starting point.

So, tangibles: What do you think of the NYT question? What are points of seeming contradiction between your religious beliefs and your academic/professional training? How do you traverse this tension?

(ps - it would be great if we don't get into a discussion of evolution)

Tuesday, 30 January 2007

Breaking Up Responsibilities and other thoughts sparked by my brit lit class . . .

I am taking a contemporary British Lit class this semester-- it is fabulous. Not only is my teacher the definition of Marathon Woman, I really enjoy our class discussions, and the literature is rather enlightening.
Last week I got up on my feminist soap box when we read Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own, and how we might think we have moved so far from Woolf's time to think women have it great because we can get our bachelor's degrees, but really we have so much more progress to make, especially in church culture, where it is possible to get higher degree or have a career, but it is generally very difficult for it to be accepted. My teacher then pointed out that women typically want to have it all, and all at once. From her experience, she can say that it is quite possible to have it all-- just not all at once. You have to spread it out. She also noted that women who do try to attain educational or career goals will experience a lot of criticism, but, interestingly enough, it is usually from other women-- not men. (Obviously this is in general, not absolute.) She said she was highly criticized, usually until the criticizers got to know her children-- once they could see she was raising truly incredible kids, they dropped the criticism. She got married when she was 19 and had three children by the time she was 21. She continued in school and got her master's degree and her Ph.D. along the way. She also worked as an editor of sorts earning over $300,000 a year (and that was in the '80s). She was widowed when she was about 48, and then she was offered a job at BYU. So, now she teaches here. Seriously, she's amazing.

Okay, believe it or not, that was a side note. So, today, when I got to class, in the pre-class discussion this guy just asked if it was okay for him to be a stay-at-home dad if he knew his wife could earn more than he could and she was okay with it. Everyone generally agreed that this was fine-- as long as it really was okay for both parties. Then he said something about how the only downside was that he would have to do all the laundry, clean, cook, shop, etc. And so I said, "wouldn't you split the responsibilities?" And it basically went quiet. I thought that was odd. I mean, isn't it generally accepted that husband and wife should split household responsibilities? I said how I expected my husband to share in the chore duties-- and he does. He always cleans the bathroom (among other things). And he didn't mind.

I'm not sure what my question is for the point of this post. Basically, if you like, you can just respond to anything I have typed, or you can answer one of these two specific questions:

(1) The Proclamation to the World states that a woman belongs in the home, raising her familiy. Does this mean that the Church discourages stay-at-home dads? Do you think it is more important for the woman specifically to be in the home? Or do you think the key factor is a parent in the home and they just say it should be the woman because that is most typical? (Granted, I know some circumstances don't allow a parent to be in the home-- let's just pretend this hypothetical family does not need to worry about finances-- though do consider this option: the wife can make more at her job than her husband-- should the wife still stay home? We're talking wife is a business executive and the husband is a public school teacher.)

(2) Was I on some other planet when I responded that they could split the responsibilities? Should women be in charge of keeping a house clean, doing the laundry, etc.? Or is it fair to have the man share in the responsibilities?

Monday, 22 January 2007

Beautiful Books, Films, Music

Hello! Has anyone discovered a particularly beautiful book or film or piece of music recently? Or painting or poem? Or idea or word?

Shameless blog abuse

Well, I have to give a talk in Sacrament Meeting this Sunday. I am supposed to speak on... anything. (Man, I HATE it when they don't give you a topic.) The bishop's only suggestion was that I use a conference talk - from any conference, ever - as my basis, and work from there.

So my questions for you ladies are: What's your favorite conference talk? Are there any General Authorities/topics/etc. etc. that you find particularly inspiring? Have you given a good Sacrament Meeting talk lately that you would like to send to me so that I can repeat it verbatim?

Saturday, 20 January 2007

Greetings from Chicago!

Hello! My name is Kathryn. I'm a freelance writer in the Second City attempting to write a book about prominent women of faith. I grew up in Oregon, studied journalism at BYU and Northwestern University, and am currently pitching projects to the Center for Women’s Business Research and The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. Alexandra and I attended the same singles branch in Chicago. Her wit and wisdom continues to inspire me--especially when it comes to buying a pair of black heels!

This blog is such a great idea, I hope to visit it more often. Elder Neal A. Maxwell said this of women: "We know so little, brothers and sisters, about the reasons for the division of duties between womanhood and manhood as well as between motherhood and priesthood. These were divinely determined in another time and another place. We are accustomed to focusing on the men of God because theirs is the priesthood and leadership line. But paralleling that authority line is a stream of righteous influence reflecting the remarkable women of God who have existed in all ages and dispensations, including our own. Greatness is not measured by coverage in column inches, either in newspapers or in the scriptures. The story of the women of God, therefore, is, for now, an untold drama within a drama."

Here's to unfolding the drama together!

Monday, 15 January 2007

Trying to remember my name

Hello all. The title of this entry probably leads you to wonder what I'm doing here with you geniuses, but I'll just provide the lay person's point of view from here on out since my brain seems to have taken a leave of absence.

My name is Audrey, and I'm living in Sandy, Utah. Like you, Nancy, I swore I wouldn't live in Utah for longer than it took to graduate from BYU (where I lived with Alexandra and Courtney). But as life would have it, I'm here and probably for the long haul. I'm originally from San Francisco area, and I miss it all the time. But I am learning to love Utah.

I majored in Psychology, which I loved, and am now working at the oh-so-glamorous "Datamark" which to me sounds like the most generic business name on earth - where Dilbert would work or something. It's a good job though, so I shouldn't complain. We do marketing for various schools - mostly vocational, but some traditional universities as well.

I am four months pregnant, which apparently means unforeseen levels of exhaustion and, as I mentioned before, near complete lack of brain function. It's an adventure though, and I love it. I've been married to Patrick for a year and a half. He started a multimedia company - Propel Pictures - with a friend, and their dream is to make movies.

To wrap this up - my interests are history, but particularly American History and Current Events, reading, Thai and Indian Food, being with family, chocolate, etc. I think Carol Lynn Pearson is a genius and I secretly like Oprah. I recently decided to look into getting a Masters (topic undecided), and I'm trying to coexist with my ridiculous hair.

I'm excited for this!!

Friday, 12 January 2007

Breaking the FQI Ice

I decided to jump up to the plate with a post. (Hope you don't mind.)

In regards to Eve and the Choice Made in Eden, I just read an interesting post on the Segullah Blog which mentions the book. I really did like the part of the book she mentions in her post. It's an interesting post anyway, and a nice blog, if you haven't already come across it.

On that note, it may become obvious that one of the things I think about at length is the Fall. (Particularly the way it is presented in the temple.) One thing I have wondered, but have never been able to answer, is, why were two contradictoy commandments given? (Audrey-- I like your take on this, but I'll let you interject if you so desire.) There are so many questions surrounding the fall, but I think they ultimately lead to this. (One question I keep thinking right now: how was Satan allowed in the Garden?) Ultimately, was Eve's choice not a case of wickedness being happiness? What are your takes on the Fall?

On more general terms, thinking of Eve, Adam and Eden, how has the knowledge of the Fall changed your life, personality, relationships, testimony, etc.?

Thursday, 11 January 2007

Pregnancy, Ph. D and other P words...

Hello All,

My name is Nancy and I've just moved to Utah after living in the UK for more than eight years. I grew up in Maine, went to a boarding school in New Hampshire, did my undergraduate degree in art history at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and have just finished my Ph.D, also in art history, at the University of Cambridge in England, where I met Alexandra.

I've been married to Russ for two and a half years. He just submitted his Ph.D in computer science and is now teaching at Dixie State College. I'm seven months pregnant with my first child and am currently unemployed, but trying to find things to do here in St. George. My doctoral research focuses on medieval illuminated manuscripts, particularly illustrated books of the Book of Revelation in England in the 13th and 14th centuries. I like to watch movies, read, walk and am missing my primary calling back in England.

I got to know Alexandra a bit when she insisted that she help me clean my flat, in preparation for the move, a few weeks ago. I thought that I was just going to get some practical help, but several great conversations ensued and nowI am posting to this blog! I loved living in England and had several LDS-doctoral student-mommy friends that I now miss very much. I'm hoping that the transition to living in Utah, where I swore I would never live, will go pretty smoothly.

Wednesday, 10 January 2007

Also, I love chocolate cake

My name is Emma, and I'm from Washington DC. I graduated from Duke in May, in art history and classical studies... not exactly the most employable fields, which is why I'm now a trade analyst.

After undergrad I decided to take two years off before grad school, which kind of seemed like a good idea at the time for the purposes of repaying student loans, travelling, and taking some languages to help me get into a good program. However, I've since discovered that not going to school makes me feel a little dead inside, especially when I have to wear real clothes/shoes 5 days a week. For that reason, I am pumped about my German class that starts tonight... woohoo, intellectual pursuits! Once I get to grad school, I want to study Roman art.

For now, I live at home. I tutor my 9th grade sister in math and science, which is kind of a travesty and I hope she doesn't fail. I also tutor some kids from the inner city wards in my stake for the ACTs and SATs. I loooove reading, especially short stories and poetry. I hate Ethiopian food. I get incredibly nerdy at museums. I've bought a lot of new shoes since I started my job this summer. And my favorite memory of Alexandra was the time we went to a stake dance (??) and she started crying when they played the YMCA.

Apart from Al, the only other person I know on this blog is Ade, so I can't wait to meet the rest of you!

Today's Special: Courtney a la mode

Since I really should be reading BYU Magazine for one of my editing classes, I thought I would write my introduction. For what better way to introduce you to me then by doing it while procrastinating? (And because, tomorrow, Alexandra will wonder why I didn't do it when we talked about it extensively this evening.)

I am Courtney. I go to BYU and will graduate this August. Yes, this is just my undergrad, and my major is English, minor editing. Though I am considerably younger than Alexandra academically, I am, in fact, exactly one month older (and 10 inches shorter).

I have been married to Sam for one year and four months. He is studying film and recently shaved his head.

I am passionate about literature. American contemporary to be exact. My passion for grammar occasionally surpasses my passion for literature. I find the structure of the English language fascinating.

My other random interests include biking, first-generation American culture, culinary arts and the food network.

So those are some basics. Audrey might tell you I'm awkward and not very organized. Alexandra will tell you . . . I don't know Al, what would you tell them?
Now I really must go read BYU Magazine.


How about we each post short introductions about ourselves: what we're currently doing, interests, other relevant information?

Tuesday, 9 January 2007


Hello dear friends!

A note about the title: though it is slightly unwieldy, "fides quaerens intellectum" - faith seeking understanding - offers a general introduction to each of us as women seeking to increase our faith through our commitment to the gospel and our commitments to education, professions etc. "Fides quaerens intellectum" also serves as a general introduction to the content of this forum: rather than establishing ourselves as a subculture within the church, I think we all look forward to exploring the joys, the challenges, the complications and beauties of learning how we understand our various roles as women, wives, mothers, students, professors, lawyers, writers, businesswomen - and the tensions these diverse roles inhere.

More than anything, I look forward to the growth of a bond between women from all over the world with a wide range of experiences and interests but united in our commitment to fides quaerens intellectum, however we express that commitment in our particular lives.


I imagine it will take a bit of time for everyone to post their profiles and start being active, but whoever wants to begin discussion, please do!