Friday, December 1, 2017

Book Review: The Four Tendencies

The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People's Lives Better, Too)The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better by Gretchen Rubin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a quick look at how we set and accomplish goals and what motivates us to accomplish them.

The theory behind this book is that each of us falls into one of four tendencies. Upholders-motivated by internal and external expectations, Questioners- motivated internally, Obligers- motivated externally, and Rebels- Do what they want, not motivated by internal or external expectations.

Once you take the quiz at the beginning of the book, she breaks down each tendency into sections such as what motivates each tendency, strengths and weaknesses of each tendency, and how to deal with a spouse, coworker, medical patient, and child with each tendency.

There's also a section about different relationship pairings. I'm a questioner leaning toward rebel and my husband is an obliger leaning toward rebel. Which was really surprising! We are both quite stubborn but in different ways and for different reasons! When I rebel it's because I think that I know better than everyone else and my husband rebels because he doesn't want people to tell him what to do. So as you can guess that can be an interesting dynamic in a marriage! haha!

While it was an interesting premise I wasn't totally sold on each of us fitting into one box and staying there our entire life. I really felt like in certain situations I could be motivated in different ways. However, I did fall under questioner and leaned toward rebel so that could have something to do with me questioning the validity of the test. It was funny because as I was having these thoughts the book itself even validated that questioners would be the most skeptical about their results.

There were a lot of things that rung true for me as I read about my questioning tendency. I'm definitely "crackpot material" like she says and I definitely like to research things out before I leap. I sometimes get bogged down in analysis paralysis but I also get things done on time when I need to. I do find myself questioning authority quite a bit and I really hate arbitrary or inefficient rules or the answer of "that's the way we've always done it". I feel like it's super important to understand "why" you are doing something, especially when you are recommending others do it too. And I'm sure that I exhaust people (including myself at times) with my endless list of questions. I didn't really identify with the part where she said questioners don't like to be questioned. I enjoy debates a lot and love philosophy discussions, etc. I do feel frustrated when in a debate with someone who I don't feel has done enough research though so maybe that's what she means by not liking to be questioned.

I identified quite a bit with the rebel mentality also. Which I was surprised by since I live a pretty conservative life. However, I enjoy doing things differently than other people and surprising others by defying their expectations of what I might say or do next. I don't like being told I can't do something and motivate myself quite often by thinking of people who want me to fail. Like before I ran my half marathon I had someone tell me they didn't think I could do it because of my weight and my want to prove him wrong was more motivating than visualizing the finish line or anything like that! I have no problem breaking rules (especially arbitrary ones-see questioner).

I also change what I do for hobbies or jobs quite a bit. I do preschool, now I'm a runner, now I'm decorating cakes, I'm going to write a book, etc. When something becomes an expectation I find it a lot harder to do things. Like when I made cakes for fun and for free I never felt stressed and could do several a day. Once I started getting paid for cakes and was stuck to a baking schedule I suddenly felt a lot of anxiety about it! I also find it easier to help someone when I just think of doing it on my own as opposed to someone asking me. And on occasion I've not done something that were in my best interest just because someone else told me to do it. However, I think a lot of this still falls in the questioner category because a true rebel doesn't like anyone telling them what to do but I'm fine with some people telling me what to do if they have researched it out, explained why I should and I trust them as an authority.

Although I definitely saw myself within her framework I didn't feel like it was super spot on or revolutionary. I've definitely read other personality type books that seemed to peg me a little better. I also didn't feel like it necessarily gave much insight into how to use your strengths to make your life better or how to overcome weaknesses. And there were definitely some major biases on the part of the author. It was pretty easy to tell which of the tendencies she thought were good and which needed some work. She was an upholder and pretty much defended every choice ever made by an upholder and didn't really seem to do that for the others. But that's just my perception and as a questioner/rebel I'm probably biased against upholders a little bit. Sorry Ms. Rubin!

I am so excited to discuss this with my book group though. Excited to hear what others thought and what groups they are in. I think it will definitely have a great discussion!

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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Book Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-TimeThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I really wanted to like this book. I really though I was going to. I'd read several good reviews and had a couple people recommend it.

The book is unique in that the main character and narrator, Christopher, is Autistic thus giving us a look at what it might be like to view the world through his eyes and mind. Christopher can't be touched, he loves animals but has trouble relating to people, and is gifted in memorization and mathematics. I enjoyed the main characters humor, his self awareness as he's writing the book (he often says things like my friend said not to put this in but I"m going to anyway), and the fact that each chapter is counted by only prime numbers.

However, even with the neat things this book has going for it, they weren't enough to redeem the fact that there isn't much of a plot happening. The book felt a lot longer than it was and ending is pretty anticlimactic. The only real peak in the story happens about half way through and then you're left with 80 more pages to describe one trip on a train.

It also felt like in a few places that this book was written with the sole purpose of trying to win awards...which it did. I also pretty much hated all the other characters other than Christopher and Siobhan. All the adults were angry and self absorbed. Every stranger he met says the f word every other word. Other than Christopher every other character was basically the same character, not fleshed out at all. Maybe that is supposed to be because Christopher has a hard time reading people or connecting emotionally? Or maybe it's just lazy writing on the part of the author.

I also think a lot of people read this book and felt like maybe they had learned more about autism when really this is a fiction book written by someone with very little interaction with or knowledge on the subject. The author in interviews and on his blog has even talked about the fact that he's been asked to speak about it several times and has to decline because he didn't really research it that much and isn't an expert. While this voice may ring true for some people with autism, it's important to remember that within the autistic population each person is unique (as are we all) and that this isn't representative of how they all see and interact with the world.

Save yourself some time and skip this one. There are better books out there!

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Saturday, November 4, 2017

Book Review: Wintergirls

WintergirlsWintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is haunting. The writing is beautiful and bleak at the same time. The author delves deep into the world of eating disorders in a fictional narrative that explores the thoughts, feelings, history and compulsions behind addiction in many forms.

It is written from the viewpoint of a teenage young woman dealing with anorexia whose best (and also estranged) friend has just died. We are kind of dropped into the middle of the story at this point and must wait to find out how her friend died, why they are estranged, why the main character is anorexic, how that applies to the death of her friend, etc.

As I read the viewpoint of this teenage girl and the things she believes are truth and the way she views her parents and family I was really haunted by what things I might unintentionally be doing or not doing that could eventually lead my children to have some of the recurring negative thoughts this young woman has. As we get glimpses of what leads to her eating disorder, and friend choices, and decision to cut herself, we begin to see the entire tapestry of what leads people to make certain choices. It made me think about the things that have affected my own tapestry but also how I affect others.

The complexity with which the story is told leads the reader to realize there is no easy or quick fix to these problems. It also shows us the inseparable connection between our mental health and our physical health. It challenges our perceptions of the world and helps us, for a few hundred pages, to perceive the world from the viewpoint of someone who is in a very dark place. It is hard to convince someone that they are not seeing truth. It's hard to convince someone who is stuck in darkness to believe there is light out there. Or someone who is stuck in winter that Spring will come.

Beyond the plot of this book I also really enjoyed the actual writing style. The main character becomes so alive for the reader as we get to hear her every thought. And why she thinks that. And the story behind why she thinks that. The author manages to do this without being boring or bogging us down with lengthy descriptions of past events. There were many parts where I could feel exactly what the main character was feeling or see the world the way she wanted us to.

The writing is also very poetic. While she does use a basic narrative style for some of the story, it is interspersed between sections of beautiful poetry. There were many paragraphs that could stand alone and be discussed at length without the surrounding book text. I think that is the mark of a gifted author.

Can't wait to discuss it at book group!

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Book Review: Mother's Milk: Poems in Search of Heavenly Mother

Mother's Milk: Poems in Search of Heavenly MotherMother's Milk: Poems in Search of Heavenly Mother by Rachel Hunt Steenblik
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A beautiful book of poetry! I echo so many of the thoughts she shares in this book but still had my ideas pushed and gained a lot of new things to ponder as I read her words.

It's a very quick read but I found it more enjoyable to break it up throughout the week so that I could take time to think about what I was reading.

There are so many things I could talk about but I'll limit it to my two favorite take away insights. First, One of her poems relates our spiritual desire to find our Heavenly Mother to a baby who fell asleep by their mother and wakes up to her absence and is scared and cries. This was a beautiful description of the way I have been feeling in regard to my Heavenly Mother. While an absence of information didn't bother me through much of my youth as a grown woman it was like I suddenly realized I didn't know where she was and how much I needed to know where she was. That absence made me scared and for a long time I cried and was angry about it but have now been soothed and know that this process was important for my growth.

Many of her poems are inspired by quotes and insights from others that she acknowledges in her titles and her notes. My other favorite insight was from Chieko Okasaki and makes an appearance in a couple of the author's poems. It is that when we hug someone tightly we can't see their face. Could it be that our ignorance about our Heavenly Mother isn't because she is so far away but because she is so close that we have been looking past her. As I've started to look for Her more closely I've found in her presence in so many places. Nature, child birth, womankind, temple worship, the words of my spiritual foremothers, etc.

This book was inspiring on many levels for me. 1) It reminded me that I have a Heavenly Mother who loves me 2) This knowledge empowers me as I am a mother (not only to my children but to all that I help nurture through kindness and service) 3)It helped me know that I'm not alone in this journey, or in having these questions, or in my thirst for more knowledge about my Mother. 4) It made me want to start back up writing poetry...a talent that I've neglected for too many years.

Definitely give this one a read!

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Book Review: Eve and the Choice Made in Eden

Eve and the Choice Made in EdenEve and the Choice Made in Eden by Beverly Campbell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this book and it gave me a lot to think about in regards to Mother Eve's story and how it relates to a woman's journey today.

I most appreciated the discussion about Eve and Adam's story and how little we really know about so much of what happened. Timeline, creation processes, etc. are all kind of loosely outlined but not really discussed in full. Because not all the details are there we tend to fill in those blanks using our own personal and cultural biases. The author gives some really good and thoughtful insights into the gaps of the story. She also fills in some of those gaps by talking with experts on biblical history, translation processes (and pitfalls), and the Hebrew language.

As I've been trying to more closely study the old testament I've really been impressed with the fact that tracing it back to the Hebrew is so important. When there are two words meaning similar but different things and the wrong one is picked it can make a huge difference in the way we view the scriptures. For instance...the hebrew word found in the creation story for God- Elohim-is a plural word and is always followed by plural verbs. Reading the creation story with the word Gods instead of God opens up the possibility for a Heavenly Mother and adds so much depth to the interactions between Eve and her creators.

Making sure to know the correct translations can also help with other aspects of the story too...what does help meet mean? What does it mean when it says that the man will rule the woman? Is it only Adam that is given dominion over all the earth? Understanding who is being spoken to in the story can be confusing in English because sometimes man means literally just the male gender but man can also mean mankind which includes all genders. Same with the word Adam in this story. Tracing things back to the original words can sometimes help to clear this up.

This book also does a nice job of discussing the obvious sticking point for many people in this story...what was Eve's intention and understanding when she partook of the fruit? And on a deeper level how does the answer to that question affect our view and treatment of women even today. This book echoes my own feelings in that Eve was fully aware of what she was doing and understood that only through sacrifice could the plan move forward. She chooses to partake of the fruit to become like her Heavenly Parents- gaining knowledge and with it the understanding of how to multiply seed and move mankind into a fully mortal sphere. In genesis Adam calls Eve the mother of all living after they partake of the fruit. Since eating the fruit has lead Adam and Eve into a state where they will die (mortality) Adam acknowledges that Eve's sacrifice makes her the mother of all living including himself.

In the second half of the book she addresses what this story means for men and women today and how we can relate what we learn from this story to our own lives. And while I do agree that the scriptures are meant to be living and applied to our lives I don't necessarily agree with all of the conclusions she draws. This book was written in the 1990's and I found some of the ideas about gender roles to be slightly dated. Not overly so but enough that they deviated from my own opinions. Like I mentioned above our interpretation of scripture is always effected by our own cultural biases (myself included). It was interesting to read about her opinions nevertheless. And I appreciated the quotes she used from scholars and religious authorities alike.

Over all I would definitely recommend this as a great jumping off point for learning more about Eve. It helped me appreciate her and my own womanness so much. In genesis we read that God will multiply woman's sorrow but in Moses 5 we get Eve's insight that the increase in sorrow is what eventually leads to the greatest increase of joy. I have gratitude for her quest for knowledge and for her sacrifice on my behalf and I'm grateful that I get to continue the work of Eve in my family and religious settings.

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Monday, October 30, 2017

Book Review: Revelation, Resistance, and Mormon Polygamy: The Introduction and Implementation of the Principle, 1830-1853

Revelation, Resistance, and Mormon Polygamy: The Introduction and Implementation of the Principle, 1830–1853Revelation, Resistance, and Mormon Polygamy: The Introduction and Implementation of the Principle, 1830–1853 by Merina Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another great look at Mormon Polygamy. While the information overlaps with many of the other books I've read on the subject it also gives a lot of new insights and stories. It uses Rough Stone Rolling and In Sacred loneliness as a source and since I've already written detailed reviews of those books I won't go into too much detail about this book.

However, this book discusses the entirety of polygamy from beginning with secret polygamy in Nauvoo, through the martyrdom, across the plains, and living open polygamy in Utah.

The books I had previously read on the subject dealt mainly with the Nauvoo years or focused more on the people involved with polygamy only being a part of the story. This book faces Polygamy head on as a doctrine. The title tells you pretty much what you are going to get in terms of narrative through the book. The author discusses it from the believers point of view (revelation) and the non-believers point of view (resistance). We get to learn a little about the cultural influences leading up to the start of polygamy as well as the end of polygamy.

I enjoyed the stories of many different people living polygamy in different situations. I feel like the author does a good job of trying to share positive stories in between some of the harder stories. She is also good about looking in depth at quotes and accounts and pointing out cultural bias and the tendency we all have to remember history through rose colored glasses. We get to see the differences in what some people said publicly in speeches and accounts verses what the say in their private journals. It shows the complexity of the subject and the wrestle that many people underwent to live it.

It's also interesting to come at polygamy from the man's point of view, the woman's point of view, and the child's point of view. This book does a good job of showing that even people in the same family disagree about polygamy and each viewed their situation uniquely.

A few new areas this book covered were the relief society/Emma Smith's interactions with polygamy, and the stories of those inside and outside the faith that opposed polygamy and how this affected the transition after the martyrdom.

The author does a good job about seperating secret Nauvoo (polygamy) from public Nauvoo (professing to be anti-polygamy). While Emma Smith is the president of Relief Society she begins to hear rumors about secret Nauvoo. She then begins to send her councilors and friends out to try and stop the rumors about her husband and polygamy. The only problem was that the people she sent out to squelch the rumors were already secret polygamous wives of her husband and the rumors they were trying to stop were actually true. The author does a good job of explaining the time line and how things played out for those who were in the know about polygamy and those who were not. It also talks about Emma's ordeal with knowing about it but not knowing all about it. Trying to accept it but ultimately rejecting it. Loving her husband but wanting to leave. And also her decision to not go west with the saints. It also mentions that we don't have a journal for Emma, which would be very uncommon for a woman of her time not to have kept one. My secret wish is that it's in existance somewhere and that we get to see it someday!

Along with Emma there were also many high ranking authorities within the church who opposed polygamy. After Joseph and Hyrum are martyred, these opinions for and against polygamy are a key component in the debates over who should be the next prophet and what the organization of the church will look like. Emma Smith had believed that polygamy would die with her husband and when she learns that it wont and that it is far more widespread than she had known she aligns herself with the leadership of the high council who oppose polygamy and that is ultimately why she chooses to stay behind. Also her and Brigham really don't get along for a variety of reasons. But that's a discussion for another time.

Anyway, if you enjoy church history I would definitely recommend this book. I think cultural context is always important for understanding difficult topics like polygamy and this book gives a lot of context. I also enjoyed getting to read the journal entries and letters written by real people living through this period of church history.

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Thursday, October 12, 2017

Some Thoughts on How to Discuss Questions About Mormon History and Theology and Resources for Aiding That Discussion

As some may have noticed, I've been studying a lot about LDS history and theology lately.  I've had the chance to have a lot of great conversations about this with people and have had several people ask how to go about finding good books to read on the topic.  I've also had a few people, not understanding where I'm coming from, who are worried that I'm lost in dark paths because I've been researching these things.  Which was sad and confusing since I primarily rely on LDS sources for all my information. So, I thought it would be a good time to write a post about some good (church approved) resources for finding out about church history.  Hopefully it can help others who are interested in the topic find what they're looking for and it can assure others that I'm not dipping my toes in a fiery lake of doubt and misery.

First things first, I have a testimony of Jesus Christ.  I have a testimony that we have loving Heavenly Parents who love us and want us to return to them. I have a testimony that by having charity (which is loving Christ by loving others the way he would) we can do extraordinary things. While there are many beautiful and amazing teaching provided by the LDS church, I fear that sometimes those basic tenets of Christ's Atonement, Charity, Hope, and Faith get overshadowed by the controversial topics of our history.  Many of my friends outside of the church know little of what our actual gospel message is and more about church history, controversial topics like polygamy, and comments made by church leaders regarding minority groups. Because these are the things people are going to ask us about I think it's important for us to study them out so that we can have answers.  Having been on the side of questioner and answer-er I thought I'd share some thoughts I had on how we can be more loving and welcoming to those who think differently than we do. I don't think it's enough to just tell people to ignore all the hard stuff and just focus on the good.  Sometimes it's by addressing the "hard" questions that we are prepared to receive the good.  I think that's true for people in and outside of the church

I know that not everyone feels like they need or want to know about early church history, or the origins of priesthood, or women and divinity and that's fine.  Our faith is individual and we come at it from many ways.  Many people learn about church history during their youth and get refresher courses every four years at church and that is enough to build their faith.  Which is great and honestly, I think that is a spiritual gift. I also know that there are a lot of people, like me, who approach things in a more questioning format and want to learn more. For a long time, I considered my questioning nature to be an indication that I didn't have enough faith but I now know that God gave me my questions to lead me toward answers and that he loves me even if I take a little longer than most to understand church doctrines (and maybe even if I have a few on my shelf that I'm still not quite ready to deal with yet.) President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said "Some might feel embarrassed or unworthy because they have searching questions regarding the gospel, but they needn't feel that way. Asking questions isn't a sign of weakness; it's a precursor of growth."

Sometimes in an effort to be faith promoting I think we as a church membership focus on only the good that happened and start to think of the pioneers of our faith as beyond human.  We've all probably heard people say things like "the pioneers never complained" or they "never doubted".  While that black and white way of thinking can be motivating for some it can also be demotivating for many others who think they will never stack up.  As I've learned about the good and the bad and read journals where pioneers doubt one day and bear testimony the next I'm more able to see that these were real people living real lives! The point of the gospel is not that you have to be perfect in order to participate. The point is that through Christ we can all be made perfect. When we realize that the pioneers were ordinary people doing extraordinary things it becomes much more relevant and motivating than hero-worship.  As I learn more about the mistakes that were made and how they were overcome I learn that God uses imperfect people to run his church. And if they, imperfect as they were, could be of use, then maybe there is hope for me as well. As I've jumped into family history more I've been very impressed that it's time for me to really study out church history and doctrines as well and face some of the troubling things head on. I've found that in addition to stretching and strengthening me personally, it has increased my love for those who have gone before me.

I've been excited to share what I'm learning with others who have questions or who struggle with the history. I know that when I've had doubts or worries, having other to talk to has been crucial in my church activity. We know from the scriptures that we should seek things out in faith but also through gaining knowledge and discussing that knowledge with others. Doctrine and Covenants 88:118 says "And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith”. I'm so appreciative of those who have already travailed this path and the insights they can give me and the encouragement to keep studying and moving forward.

I'm also excited that my kids will have the opportunity to be taught these things in their youth instead of finding out at BYU (like I did) or even later in life that seminary and Sunday school didn't quite show the complete picture.  Some might think that church history detracts from learning about the basic tenets and doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  However, the truth remains that learning about our church history and previous revelations can help us understand the doctrines we are presented with today.  Some want to leave the past in the past but the fact is that temple practices, priesthood ordination practices, attitudes toward women, our view of the afterlife etc. are heavily impacted by the practices of our ancestors in the early church and turning our head away from these facts can only cause heartache down the road. When we don't understand the real history and doctrines of the church we start to fill in the gaps with our own ideas and that is when we get lost in church culture and vain traditions.

When the church announced the gospel topics essays Elder J. Devn Cornish (of the Seventy and also the executive director of the Church History Department at the time) said: “Gone are the days when the history of the Church is just interesting. Gone are the days when it is only important. In our day, the history of the Church is urgent...Our history can either be used as a weapon against the faith of our members or as a bulwark to build and protect their faith". I hope that by helping my kids know about this history early on it will lessen their chance of having it used as a weapon against them later.

So even if your testimony is rock solid about church history, I encourage you to learn more so that you can be of help to those around you who do have questions (including our children). And also, certainly, because over the next several years this history is going to be incorporated more and more into the curriculum for youth and adults and it's always better to learn it on your own time table than to be blindsided by it in the middle of gospel doctrine class.

While it is a great blessing to have family, friends and associates to discuss things with and while I've been blessed with many who have happily pointed me to good sources, studied things out with me, discussed troublesome topics (sometimes multiple times), and genuinely loved me even when I was at my most "faith crisis" moments, I want to caution others to choose wisely who you choose to open up to about your questions. Sometimes, unfortunately, our questions can be met by others with anger or even condemnation.  Some might feel betrayed that we aren't as "steadfast" as they thought we were, some people regard even the act of having questions as sinful, some don't understand why we don't just rely on faith only, some are immature or unsure in their own testimonies or understanding of church history or doctrines, and others hear our questions only in terms of how it will affect them (what does this mean for our friendship? What will others think of me if I associate with this person who is questioning?", etc.).

As a listener, it's important to listen carefully to what is being said so that we don't misjudge or jump to incorrect conclusions. In the LDS gospel topics essay about answering gospel questions it says that we should 1) Show Compassion for the person asking questions 2) Listen Carefully and 3) Fortify Faith.  Don't assume that because someone is questioning that they are doing it justify or cover up their sins, or that they are trying to lead a rebellion away from the church. Sure, those things could happen, but just because someone is asking questions doesn't mean that they are doing those things. Also, as the person asking the questions we need to make sure we can remain calm, not be too aggressive and that we bring them up when we have time to explain where our thoughts are coming from.

Sometimes the context for your questions can help others better know what they can do to help. So before I give my list of resources I used to help with my questions, I'd like to give some context for my questions. For me, things came to a head after the birth of my fifth child.  I began to wonder what it means to be a woman, what was God's plan for me as such, and how the gospel could help me navigate the many changes and trials that occur in the life of women. I decided to really find out what Heavenly Father thought of me as a daughter through prayer and meditation.  After praying about it for several weeks I decided to also dedicate my scripture study time to see how other women had navigated the many changes and demands that are required of women on their mortal journey. As I studied, I became increasingly frustrated that there really aren't many depictions of women outside of who they married or who they begat.  I went to the temple and although I feel uplifted there I also felt frustrated that I still wasn't seeing my Heavenly Mother's hand in this or understanding Eve's entire story. I won't go into my specific concerns or questions about that here but click over to my book review of Women in Eternity, Women of Zion if you'd like to know more about them.

From there I decided to start seeking out books about women in the scriptures and particularly women in the early LDS church.  However, as I began to dive in to their stories, I realized that while I did have some things in common with them, our lives really looked so different!  Many of these women practiced polygamy, actively talked about Heavenly Mother, gave each other healing blessings for the first 80+ years of the church, and received and spake revelations for one another through the gift of tongues.  Having studied many of these things before (I always took more than a full load of classes at BYU so that I could take extra religion classes each semester) I didn't think I would be that shocked by what I found. It also became apparent that as the Sunday curriculum has shied away at times from addressing polygamy (even changing some of the quotes in the Brigham Young manual from "wives" to "wife") that some of these women's lives have been unintentionally overlooked for many years.  While I understand that changing quotes to sound more monogamous helps us to better relate to the lessons on marriage, it sometimes also accidentally distances us from these amazing women.

So, with all that in mind let me get into where we can turn to learn more about church history, women of the church, and more! The Church History department has collaborated with so many different researchers to make sure that we can now have access to records, journals, pictures and stories that most church members have never had access to before (either because they were part of private collections, authenticity or context were still under debate, or because previous generations have worried that some of the "harder" parts of church history were not faith promoting). The cool thing about a lot of the historical papers and books that are being put out today is that they are written for people in and outside of the faith and give a more accurate and complete version of our history.  While much of this information has been available for awhile- timeline corrections, what was said, who said it, and so many things that previously were glossed over, are now being presented to the membership in detail and in easier to find places.

The gospel topics essays are a great place to start.  While they are still not perfect (and will continue to change as new research comes to light) they give a very good overview of some of the more sensitive topics in our history and doctrines.  They've been put together by the church history department and are supported by numerous books and resources that are provided by the top historians and researchers of LDS history.  They are also approved by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve.  You can read more about the essay topics, their approval process and their uses by visiting the essay overview page.

Right now these essays include a range of topics such as are Mormon's Christian, Heavenly Mother, the Book of Mormon and DNA, Polygamy in Nauvoo, Polygamy in Utah, priesthood restrictions, Joseph Smith's teachings about women, becoming like God, and more.  You can access the complete list here:

Not only do these essays give a good overview they also provide an amazing list of references that can also guide your study.  When you click on a topic you will often see the first paragraph of text, related church resources and scriptures, and then other suggested topics.  Click on the show more link to be able to access the whole text of the essay but also to access the full list of resources used.  There are dozens of books listed on most essays.  I've really had to increase my book budget as of late :) For recommendations of books that I've personally read from these lists you can visit my book review page.

In addition to book references, there are also other websites, scriptures, BYU Studies article links, and more.

Below is a list of some of the online resources that are used in the essays and some sites that I have found helpful in choosing which books to read. A lot of these cross paths frequently or link to one another but I'm going to list them out separately. -access to the full text of relief society minutes and other documents, also provides information about current books being published and news in the world of LDS church history.  -full text of revelations, meetings, journals, and more from the early church. -I've found some awesome articles here about all kinds of topics.  Biblical evidences, Mother in Heaven, Book of Mormon historical context, Hebrew translation, etc. A really cool feature is under study resources- For each Sunday School lesson they have linked all their past articles that pertain to that particular topic.

The Neal A Maxwell Institute -for religious scholarship at BYU. (Particularly the Mormon Studies review which can be found under their publications tab.  I recently watched a really interesting podcast about the combining of FARMS into the Neal A. Maxwell Institute and the shift of scholarship being written for a wider audience.  The Mormon Studies Review, rather than publishing new material, is a review of new articles, journals and books being put on a variety of topics within Mormonism.  This one does cost $10 for a yearlong digital pass, but it's really cool!) -From here you can access several of the other resources I've listed here.  It also has publications and another whole list of online resources that you can check out there.

Revelations in Context  -This is found on and you've probably seen links to it in your sunday school manuals for Doctrine and Covenants.  It's a great resource to get some understanding for what was happening during times of revelation.  It also tells us the story from other people's points of view that lived during that time. You'll also find links to other research sources such as the Joseph Smith Papers and church historians press listed above.

Women in the Scriptures Blog -While this blog isn't just about church history it is fascinating! She also has some really good book reviews and recommendations that have really helped me understand more about women in all of the scriptures, Eve's story, Emma Smith and more.

Amazon  and Goodreads book reviews- When deciding which books I want to read I often turn to the book reviews on Amazon or Goodreads to see what others have to say about it and how it helped them in their life.  I also research who the authors are and what other books they may have written. I usually look at what seems to be the overall tone of the reviews.  Is it people who are genuinely searching for answers to their questions or is it people who are looking for new ammunition to shoot back at the church. They can be so helpful in deciding if a book will be a good fit for you.

Well, I know this has been a long blog post but I hope it might be of some help to others.  For those who have questions I hope it lets you know that you're not alone, there are places you can go to find answers and that our Heavenly parents love you!

For those who don't have questions I hope that it might give you some good ideas of where you can turn to learn more, that you can have more empathy for those who do have questions and that maybe it will help you to feel less awkward in having conversations with your brothers and sisters who approach the gospel differently than you.

And for those who aren't LDS I hope that it can give you some resources to learn more about this religion or at the very least help you understand why my Goodreads list has been so boring sounding lately :)

My main hope always, whether you agree with my positions or not, is that my post can at least promote charity and understanding between all people inside and outside of the LDS church. So, please let me know if you have any questions I can help with or leave a comment with your favorite resources to use in your religious study! I love hearing from you all!

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