Featured

Don’t Be Afraid of the P Word – Why and How to Embrace Politics

A Facebook friend of mine recently made a post stating that she was tired of trying to understand politics and encourage productive dialogue. After feeling attacked by some friends commenting on her previous posts, she said she was no longer going to engage in such conversations and will only stick to posting strictly about her personal activities.

Another friend told me she avoids listening to or watching the news entirely. It’s too distressing, emotional, and confusing, so she doesn’t want anything to do with it.

And I used to not want anything to do with it!

I claim that we, as members of the Church, and especially as women in the Church, unjustly avoid politics when we should be using our political influence for good.

We have a responsibility to represent Him any chance we have and to use our influence for good, whatever influence that is, even at the cost of comfort.

Christians cannot be content with comfort

We avoid learning about politics because it is overwhelming, takes time, and can be controversial and uncomfortable. We avoid talking about it because, culturally, it is often a heated discussion and represented by deep rifts between two parties. We may worry we don’t know which side we fall on, or we don’t know if our friend is on the other side and might disagree with us or think us wrong or even evil for doing so.

Netflix is comfortable. Disney+ is comfortable. Food is comfortable. Not talking to strangers is comfortable. Talking about “The Office” is comfortable.

But we need to push ourselves a little harder than that!

I know politics are uncomfortable. But our culture is much too used to being comfortable.

Plus, many members of the Church are far too concerned with not upsetting anyone. We would rather call ourselves “Mormons” with a self-deprecating laugh than correct someone who does not use the correct name of the Church when referring to it or its members.

We need to be bold!

On my mission, I learned over and over again about being bold. Was I ever good at it? Honestly, probably not at all. But I want to be better, so here I am, testifying the best way I am able: in written word, to however few people will read it.

1) We should embrace learning about politics.

Now this account did cause the people of Mosiah to mourn exceedingly, yea, they were filled with sorrow; nevertheless it gave them much knowledge, in the which they did rejoice.

Mosiah 28:18

The people of Mosiah were eager to learn what had happened to the people of Jared. Even though it wasn’t easy to find out about their devastating destruction, they still felt joy in the knowledge they gained.

I know learning about politics is difficult. And it is completely possible that you really are at a time in your life when you need to turn down the voices on tv or limit your time reading newspapers.

But for many of us, it’s time to pick up the gauntlet to do the hard work of learning about the issues facing our communities and our country.  If we do so, I am confident we too will feel joy.

So find out about what’s really happening with abortion. Find out about what’s happening with human trafficking. Find out what’s happening with violence. Turning a blind eye to it will only allow evil to fester.

It’s uncomfortable. But if you can cut out a tv show, video game, or other distraction of little consequence from your life, you can find time to learn about the news and the stances of the politicians vying for your vote. Pray for the gift of discernment as you filter through the voices, seeking for a balanced diet of the most reliable sources on the left, right, and anywhere in between.

As you learn about politics, the most important thing is to stay close to your Heavenly Father. If you pair sincere prayer, diligent scripture study, and righteous living with an open mind and secular research, He can guide you to learn what you should learn and decide what is right.

God wants us to learn about politics. He cares about His people, and He certainly cares about His country.

Extra motivation for citizens of the United States of America

God has invested much into this country, and He is counting on us being stewards for Him. He wants us to defend and promote righteousness, and government can either do the same or stifle or punish righteousness. It is up to us to ensure our government sides with righteousness and with God in order to best bring about His will, provide a safe place for His Church, and protect all who follow Him.

77 According to the laws and constitution of the people, which I have suffered to be established, and should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles;

78 That every man may act in doctrine and principle pertaining to futurity, according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment.

79 Therefore, it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another.

80 And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood.

Doctrine & Covenants 101:77-80

2) We should use our influence for good by speaking, voting, and considering running for office.

After we prioritize learning about issues as well as the candidates for our local, state, and federal elections, and as we are continually prayerful, we should then use our influence to bring about good change and maintain moral standards.

I was on my mission during 2016, when the Church ran a religious freedom initiative, and when the First Presidency sent this letter reminding members about the Church’s political neutrality but urging them to be politically involved:

Participation in the political process affects our communities and nation today and in the future. We urge Latter-day Saints to be active citizens by registering, exercising their right to vote, and engaging in civic affairs.

We also urge you to spend the time needed to become informed about the issues and candidates you will be considering.

First Presidency Letter to the Church, 2016

I was happy to shrug it off, knowing that, as a missionary, I was supposed to focus on the work and leave behind things like dating, school, and politics.

However, in the next year or two, I learned to remember that Jesus Christ is at the head of His Church, and if He thought members of His Church needed to be politically informed and involved, it must be best for me and my fellow man (and woman).

I’d like to talk about 3 main ways you may do this: voting, speaking out, and running for office.

Vote

And thus they did assemble themselves together to cast in their voices concerning the matter; and they were laid before the judges.

Alma 2:6

Make sure you’re registered to vote, and then do it! Be well prepared by learning about the candidates and scheduling time to vote.

Every person who is able has a responsibility to be a part of defending our fellow man by voting to promote good in their communities for their fellow man.

Speak out

This is something everyone can do, but how you do it is up to you.

You don’t need to talk about politics every day. You don’t need to talk about it with everyone you know. You don’t need to post about it online. You also don’t have to attend protests or be a part of a formal movement.

In fact, there are many instances in which it is not necessary or good to talk about politics, and some of us might need to have a little more restraint in bringing it up.

But if you feel called to do so, do not fear! Do not always default to avoiding talking about politics, especially in appropriate settings with respectful friends and family.

Also, as you speak out, actively listen. Don’t be afraid of engaging in honest, open conversations. Listen to people with whom you agree and disagree. Try to understand where they are coming from. Be prepared to accept that you might be wrong sometimes and need to change your perspective or change your mind entirely. Remember that people who disagree with you are probably still good people with good intentions, and, in the end, you can agree to disagree.

In whatever way you speak out, for whatever cause, always remember to be Christlike and kind.

“… be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”

Matthew 10:16

Run for office

This is not for everyone; before you run for any office, consult with God to see if this is a good path for you.

But if you feel that it is God’s will for you to run for a government office at any level, move forward with faith. God calls each of us to fulfill our individual missions as His children on this earth and as members of His Church.

3) Remember that Jesus takes priority over politics.

Divorce. Bullying. Poverty. Lack of education. Insufficient healthcare. Racism. Abortion. Anxiety and depression. Hunger. Homelessness. Pornography.

… each of these problems may have a number of effective, individual solutions. However, the only universal solution is Jesus.

How Jesus Solves All Problems

Government cannot be your religion. If you are more interested in talking about politics than talking about Jesus, something is wrong.

And if your time in the news and political research is pushing out your time in the scriptures, it may be time for a break from the news cycle to recenter on the Lord.

But Spack!, you may say. How can I take a break or turn down the volume on the news? Didn’t you just say it was my duty to serve others by being politically informed and active?

Only Jesus is the source of undeniable truth, the greatest love, and perfect peace. No party, candidate, or bill can ever do as much good as Christ can do in the hearts of those who know Him.

So make sure you know Him well, and that you seek to bring others to Christ in your home, community, and country.

Amidst all the confusion, anger, and injustice in government and communities everywhere, I find hope and courage in knowing that, someday soon, my Savior will return to this earth and reign as the Prince of Peace.

“It is perhaps less obvious to some that religion and morality play an essential role in maintaining and promoting good and effective government. The only real solutions to many of the serious problems facing our world today are spiritual, not political or economic. Racism, violence, and hate crimes, for example, are spiritual problems, and their only real solution is spiritual. …
“Societies depend in large part upon religion and churches to establish moral order. Government can never build enough jails to house the criminals produced by a society lacking in morality, character, and faith. These attributes are better encouraged by religious observance than by legislative decree or police force. It is impossible for government to control the attitudes, desires, and hopes that spring from the human heart. And yet these are the seeds that grow into the conduct government must regulate.”

“Religion and Government,” Elder Wilford W. Andersen, Ensign 2015

Additional reading

Your experience

What has been a barrier for you in learning about and being involved in politics?

BYU Students Protest Title IX Exemptions: Explained and Analyzed

You may have heard about this walkout protest at BYU for LGBTQ rights. If you have, you may not have heard the real story.

Flier for the protest

So let’s talk about what’s really going on.

This Tuesday, BYU students staged a walkout as part of a national protest called “Strike Out Queerphobia,” apparently with the goal of “ending discrimination against LGBTQ people at religious universities” by ending Title IX religious exemptions.

And you might think, ok, yeah, let’s end discrimination. Sounds good.

Well, I have a lot of questions here.

What exactly is the discrimination they are opposing?

And why does ending Title IX religious exemption solve the problem?

Title IX is part of national education law that prohibits sex-based discrimination at universities. This has implications for treatment of athletes, accommodations for pregnancy, and protections against harassment and abuse. Title IX has also expanded to include certain “equal treatment” for LGBTQ students.

Title IX has some implications, however, that conflict with BYU’s honor code and living and teaching the standards of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

BYU has received religious exemption for certain requirements of Title IX to be able to operate in accordance with Church standards, such as requiring students to live according to the law of chastity, and not admitting students who are married to a person of the same gender.

This protest was a demonstration against these religious exemptions. These protesters hope that the federal government will end all religious exemptions to Title IX, so they can be treated “fairly.”

If that happens, BYU would have a choice to make.

BYU could choose to not comply with Title IX and continue maintaining their Honor Code. If this happens, BYU would lose federal funding. Of course, as a privately-owned school, BYU would still operate. The federal funding they receive comes from research grants and individual student loans and PELL grants. Most of BYU’s funding comes from the Church.

It’s possible the students would suffer the most in this case, who would have to pay all of their (relatively low) tuition without government help.

Or, BYU could choose to repeal the Honor Code. I highly doubt this will happen.

As Elder Holland and President Oaks (who was BYU’s president in the 70s and has opposed TItle IX since that time) have both reiterated at recent visits to BYU, BYU was created to be different from the world. BYU must stand for truth, goodness, and the doctrine of Christ and His Church.

And that’s what it seems this is really about: there are those in the Church and at BYU that would not only have BYU change its ways, but the whole Church.

Now, I believe most people who supported this protest didn’t really know what exactly they were doing. I feel many people joined in or supported from afar because “it’s the compassionate thing to do.”

We love our LGBTQ members. God loves them. God gives us commandments to make us happy. Breaking them will not bring happiness, and it will not build Zion.

Sources:

News coverage on the protest:

Letter granting BYU religious exemption:

https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/t9-rel-exempt/brigham-young-university-response-01032022.pdf

Read Title IX:

https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/tix_dis.html

Article from 1970s Ensign about Title IX and President Oaks:

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/1976/02/news-of-the-church/byu-receives-support-on-stand-against-sex-bias-rules?lang=eng

Read the Honor Code:

https://policy.byu.edu/view/church-educational-system-honor-code

See how much money BYU makes:

https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?q=brigham+young+university&s=UT&id=230038#programs

BYU rejected COVID relief funding:

https://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2022/03/09/brigham-young-turns-down-88m-federal-covid-19-funds

The Temple Comes First: How the Temple Has Worked in My Life

This is the story of how we went from nowhere to live to the perfect living arrangements in 12 hours flat.

Once upon a time

March of 2018, I got engaged to a guy I had just met a few months before. (I know; you can learn more about that story here: “Getting Married Young and Fast…”.)

Engagement photo

We decided to get married at the end of the summer and move into a new apartment just in time for school. We knew student housing contracts in our college town would run out quickly, especially the cheap on-campus ones we knew we would need. A couple weeks before our actual, official engagement, we applied for housing with a move-in date in mid-August, a week before the semester would start.

Due to unexpected circumstances, our already-short engagement was cut from five months to just three months.

I was already beyond overwhelmed with wedding planning as I wrapped up a busy semester, but the monster problems was this: 

Where were we going to live?

We quickly had to scramble to find single housing for 6 weeks and family housing for another 6 weeks before we could move into our new place on campus.

We did our best. Between busy school schedules and part-time jobs, Matt and I researched, called, and visited countless complexes seeking a place to stay. We tried asking around. Anything that would even consider working with our unusual timeframe were asking close to double what we could afford.

Okay, the interesting part of the story

Suddenly, it was less than 2 weeks before the end of the semester, and we still didn’t have a plan. I worried Matt would have to live with his family 6 hours away, and I’d be left alone to plan our whole wedding. And I prayed we wouldn’t have to live in my parent’s house in my old room together after we got married.

We had spent the whole Saturday driving around town, and my standards (which had never been very high) were plummeting. My morale was worse.

That night, we had made plans to go to the temple together to do an endowment session.

I had desperately, faithlessly said: “Matt, I just don’t know if we can afford to go to the temple today. We need to find somewhere to live.”

He looked at me. He thought a moment. “Jess, I don’t think we can afford to not go to the temple today.”

That’s when I knew I had chosen the right guy.

a photo from another temple trip during our engagement

I sighed but tried to repent as he took me to the temple. We prayed with all the faith we could muster (clearly, mine was pretty meager) that God would help us.

I didn’t know what would possibly be different in the morning, but I rested surprisingly well that night.

Miracles start to roll in

The next morning, my mom told me,

“I found somewhere for you to live.”

I was shocked!

“Last night, I had an idea to message [a friend], and I think it was from the Spirit. I remembered hearing that they had another house. I asked them if there was any way you guys could rent it for 6 weeks in the summer, and how much that might cost.

“He texted me back early this morning. He told me, ‘The answer is yes! But the rent is non-negotiable. It’s free.’”

We later discovered that he had only just been feeling an impression that there was someone who needed their help. When he saw the message, he knew we were who God wanted him to help!

There was no way I would have imagined this solution just the night before—and, I believe, no way I would have arrived at any solution half as good on my own. It’s almost like God has a plan. Weird, right?

An engagement photo

The blessings continue

As for single housing until the wedding, two generous friends offered us each a bedroom for a few weeks. Between their kindness and my parents’ opening my old bedroom, too, we successfully stayed off the streets for the duration of our engagement—and even got to stay just a stone’s throw away from each other.

Matt’s dad gifted us our honeymoon. Between his timeshare and frequent flyer miles, he lined up the perfect trip: an all-inclusive resort on the beach of the Dominican Republic. We only had to pay for food and a couple of Lyft rides. However, the timing didn’t shake out quite right; it wasn’t available until a week after our wedding.

God came in clutch again. Through the generosity of yet more people, we had the perfect solution: we stayed at my grandparents’ cabin the first week. Again, it was free to us, besides food gas for the 2-hour drive.

That’s how we ended up with a very, very inexpensive, but very, very dreamy 2-week honeymoon.

Then we returned straight to the charming house, rent-free. We stayed there until we moved back to college.

We were utterly spoiled that summer: staying at a cozy cabin in the woods by ourselves, then at an all-inclusive tropical resort, then in a beautiful home and perfect yard. Knowing how well God blessed us that summer, it wasn’t hard to stay humble even as we moved into the small, 500-foot, dated apartment without air conditioning.

On the beach in the Dominican Republic. Also about 50 feet from our hotel room. I know, right?

My family will never forget the lesson God taught us that day:

When you feel like your life is just too hard, too busy, too overwhelming, or too whatever, that is the time to prioritize the temple in your life. God will help the pieces fall into place where they need to go after that.

2022

Me now

I love my life now, but there are things I miss about being single and newly married. One of those things is my weekly temple trips.

Between debilitating pregnancies, babies, and, of course, COVID closures, I felt my connection with the temple waning. I am grateful to my husband, other family, and a couple of friends who have helped make it possible to attend the temple more as of late, albeit less frequently than pre-circa-2019.

As my husband and I have returned with more consistency and frequency to the temple, I have noticed some changes. I would say our testimonies and obedience to commandments had generally maintained well during those years of sparse temple attendance, but some things had waned in ways I had not perceived. Here are some fruits I have seen just in my own family:

  • Improved remembrance of covenants.
  • Improved understanding of God’s plan.
  • Greater access to personal revelation.
  • Greater closeness as a couple.
  • Stronger drive to repentance.
  • Stronger motivation to increase spiritual momentum.
  • Increased peace and perspective.
  • Increased power and confidence.

I would attribute at least moderate credit for all of these fruits directly to that increased temple attendance.

Although perhaps less dramatic-sounding in a blog post, I believe these miracles are even more critical than was my need for a place to live as a newlywed. I believe these are the blessings that you, I, and the world desperately needs.

The world now

I am concerned. From my perspective, the world has generally degenerated, devolved, and diminished in joy and peace since before 2020.

I consider it a correlated issue that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have not had consistent access to the temple of the Lord during that time. From my personal small sample of my own connections, I am concerned by the decreased faith and shaken testimonies of so many of Jesus’ disciples today. I say this in complete love and compassion to the many dear friends who have confided in me about the various faith challenges they have faced.

A testimony

I wish to testify of things I know to be true, and I pray God will confirm their truth to you.

I testify that the the Lord gives us temples as opportunities too bless us. We must accept His invitation to attend and attend often, then we must acknowledge His hand as he blesses us in ways we cannot imagine.

I testify that the Lord sent temples to members of His Church to arm and inoculate them from the dangers of the world, as a blessing and shield to them.

I testify that the temple garment is an extension of the blessings promised to us in the temple, and that it is an honor to carry that holy armor with us.

I testify that men and women who have received the temple endowment carry the power of God with them. That power enables and authorizes them to fulfill God’s will in the world.

I testify that Christ is binding and gathering families here to fulfill God’s eternal purposes and offer His greatest blessings to all God’s children.

“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the power of the Lamb of God, that it descended upon the saints of the church of the Lamb, and upon the covenant people of the Lord, who were scattered upon all the face of the earth; and they were armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory.” 1 Nephi 14:14

The blessings of the temple bless the individuals who receive them, but they are also of utmost benefit to the entire world. We are the yeast, the “leaven” in bread, the key ingredient to lifting everybody around us. (Matthew 13:33)

“When men are called unto mine everlasting gospel, and covenant with an everlasting covenant, they are accounted as the salt of the earth and the savor of men;”

—Jesus Christ, Doctrine & Covenants 101:39

There is something special about this time, the latter days. There is something special about this place where I live, the United States. There is something special about God’s people. The temple is meant to set us apart, granting us light, knowledge, and power. 

Watching the summer sun rise over the temple

What to do

There is something everyone can do, to bring the blessings of the temple to themselves, their families, and the world. Skim to find which thing applies to you.

If you are not yet baptized as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you’re in the right place! Meet with your local missionaries or attend a church service to get started. 

If you’re too young to be endowed, obtain, maintain, and use a limited use temple recommend. As frequently as you can, attend the temple to do baptisms and confirmations for the dead. Continue to repent and become more righteous each day, and learn about God and the temple in the scriptures, in prayer, and at church.

If you’re not yet endowed but a baptized adult member of the Church of Jesus Christ, make haste! Start today to do the work required to prepare to enter soon.

“‘Come to the temple.’ If not now, come soon. Pray fervently, set your lives in order, save whatever you can in hopes that that day may come. Start now that sometimes very difficult and discouraging journey of repentance. The temple transforms the individual and makes abundantly worthwhile any efforts made to get there.”

— “Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple” (booklet)

If you are endowed, attend the temple as often as you can. This will bless and assist you in many ways, including:

  • Reminders of the covenants you have made;
  • Blessings for your sacrifice time and energy to the Lord;
  • Opportunity to serve your ancestors and other deceased brothers and sisters. 

“Our need to be in the temple on a regular basis has never been greater. I plead with you to take a prayerful look at how you spend your time. Invest time in your future and in that of your family. If you have reasonable access to a temple, I urge you to find a way to make an appointment regularly with the Lord—to be in His holy house—then keep that appointment with exactness and joy. I promise you that the Lord will bring the miracles He knows you need as you make sacrifices to serve and worship in His temples.”

—President Russell M. Nelson, October 2018 General Conference

If you hold a temple recommend of any kind (e.g., regular or limited use temple recommend), always ensure your recommend is active. If yours is a few weeks (or even years) expired, start now to qualify for a new one. 

“I promise you as an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ that as you strive to redouble your righteous efforts, you will feel renewed in your devotion to God the Father and Jesus Christ, you will feel an abundance of the Holy Ghost guiding you, you will be grateful for your sacred covenants, and you will feel peace knowing you are “recommended to the Lord.” In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”

—Elder Ronald A. Rasband, October 2020 General Conference

I can promise you greater blessings and peace in your life as you make the temple of the Lord Jesus Christ a priority. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Let’s chat

How has the temple blessed you and your family? How would you rate your temple attendance right now, on a scale of 1-10? Did this article help you think of something you want to do differently? Share in the comments below.

Birth Series (3) – Comparing a Medical vs. Natural Birth

Welcome to a quick read of my analysis, takeaways, and comparisons of my experiences with both medical birth and natural birth.

Hospital birth

Read the whole story of my hospital birth experience: “Birth Series (1) – A Hospital Birth Experience”

Natural birth

Read the whole story of my natural birth experience: “Birth Series (2) – A Water Birth Experience”

My preparations during pregnancy

Medical birth

I dreaded the birth experience, expecting the worst pain of my life. Childbirth was about my biggest fear since I was a child. After 9 months of an incredibly challenging pregnancy, including severe morning sickness, all I could think about was getting it over with. I actively refused to learn more because it was so frightening and anxious a topic for me.

  • I chose a doctor at the nearest hospital. It was also the one in-network with my insurance.
  • I went to all of my prenatal appointments with my OBGYN.
  • My doctor prescribed me some anti-nausea medication, but I would immediately throw it up.
  • I followed my baby’s development and my pregnancy through an app, “What to Expect.”
  • I toured my birth facilities before giving birth.

Natural birth

This was another very challenging pregnancy, but I decided early on I would try a different approach.

  • I chose a new doctor at a different hospital who was committed to empowering women and helping me feel in control.
  • This doctor prescribed me a slightly different anti-nausea medicine that I usually kept down; it made this pregnancy significantly more bearable.
  • I read a lot of books and other material on natural birth.
  • I switched to a midwife.
  • I hired a doula.
  • I worked with my midwife and doula to find diet and lifestyle solutions to many pregnancy symptoms.
  • I took two natural birth classes.
  • I joined natural birth Facebook groups for support.
  • I included my husband in my preparations. He worked with me to practice relaxation techniques daily for several weeks. He took a birth class with me, and we wrote a birth plan together.

*You can read my natural birth research reviews at: “Birth Series (A) – Childbirth Research Reviews”

Interventions/medical procedures

Hospital birth

Prenatal appointments:

  • Several cervical checks in third trimester.
  • Opted out of the glucose test; did it at home with my diabetic husband (drank a soda, then tested blood sugar level).
  • Group B Strep (GBS) test performed on me; I came back positive.
  • Membranes stripped.

Birth:

  • Probably 10+ cervical checks.
  • Epidural, my choice.
  • Pitocin, to speed along the labor.
  • Continuous fetal monitoring after epidural.
  • IV. (Required by hospital with epidural. Also required by hospital to administer antibiotics to treat GBS.)
  • Episiotomy.

Postpartum:

  • Stitches for episiotomy.
  • Baby fed formula for first meal, after little opportunity to nurse.
  • Fundal massages in the hospital.

Natural birth

Prenatal appointments:

  • Zero cervical checks.
  • Did glucose test at midwife’s office but performed by my diabetic husband (ate a normal meal, then tested blood sugar level, showing midwife diabetic’s finger-pricking technique). 
  • One foot zoning and a prenatal massage, included with midwife package.
  • Visited a chiropractor about 8 times during pregnancy.
  • Self-administered GBS test; I came back negative (after midwife advised me on dietary changes to decrease risk).

Birth:

  • Intermittent fetal monitoring and vital checks on me.
  • Essential oils to help with nausea.
  • Manual pressure on my back to ease pain.
  • Inflatable birth tub.

Postpartum:

  • One no-contact vaginal check right after birth.
  • 3 hot rock and essential oil massages on belly and 3 herbal sitz baths within 1 week postpartum.

My overall thoughts, feelings, and analyses

Hospital birth

  • I am learning to feel peace about it, but it is only coming after now years of emotional pain.
  • I don’t like to relive it.
  • I felt out of control.
  • In large part, this birth happened to me; it doesn’t feel like something I actively did or chose.
  • In the moment, it was the path of least resistance, but it did not end up as the cut-and-clear “easier” way.
  • The actual birth was mostly painless.
  • The physical recovery took weeks of terrible pain and months of mild pain.
  • While I wouldn’t do an epidural again, I think it was necessary for where I was at the moment and considering the very meager preparation I had put in.
  • I mourn the experience that could have been and wish I had given my sweet baby girl a better, healthier, more bonding start to life.
  • Despite the trauma of both pregnancy and birth and the inherent work we both had to go through, 2 years later, she and I are both generally happy and healthy.

Natural birth

  • I feel complete peace about the moment.
  • I am happy to relive it.
  • I felt very much in control.
  • In the moment, the preparation and the birth took a lot of work, effort, and even some pain, but it ended up as an easier, less painful route in many ways.
  • The actual birth involved some pain, but it wasn’t as completely awful as I imagined it could be. The final hour or two were very hard; the rest was quite manageable.
  • The physical recovery took just a few days of moderate pain and a few weeks of mild pain.
  • I would absolutely choose this route again.
  • I am grateful to have given my sweet baby boy a peaceful, healthy, bonding start to life.
  • My baby and I are both generally happy and healthy.

Did you know?

Here are a few simple takeaways I wish I had ever heard before beginning my own digging. If this is one of your first introductions to the idea of a natural birth, I hope reading these ideas is helpful for you as you do a better job than I did the first time around in considering your options.

I’m sorry; I’m not citing them individually here. Please consider my birth reviews post and my birth experiences posts as my references.

  • Giving birth and laboring on your back is about the worst position possible and may increase your risk of c-section, tearing, and episiotomy.
  • Epidurals can cause babies to be too drowsy to eat when they are born.
  • Epidurals may cause increased chances of tearing and episiotomies.
  • Epidurals are associated with higher C-section rates.
  • If you were positive for Group B strep once, you can take measures to not be positive the second time (even though it’s not guaranteed).
  • Most hospital staff do want you to learn to breastfeed your baby. However, many hospitals don’t care to teach you a sustainable way to breastfeed. This is because many hospitals only track percent of moms who leave the hospital breastfeeding, checked yes or no. They get credit if they teach you a shortcut way to breastfeed that won’t work in the long run.
  • You have medical rights. You can say no to nearly everything a hospital requests to do to you or your baby.
  • Water birth may make birth easier for moms and is not dangerous for babies.
  • Birth is not usually a life-threatening situation.
  • You don’t necessarily need to receive cervical checks at birth.
  • Pitocin can increase the pain of contractions and even, sometimes, introduce new risks to your baby.
  • Labor may not be linear. It’s okay if your labor is split up into two or more bursts. It’s good, in fact; it means more rest time for mom!
  • You don’t necessarily need fundal massages after birth.

An important note

I do not mean to bash on anyone who has chosen a hospital birth or has needed a hospital birth. A birth is a birth, and that’s wonderful! I simply mean to bring honesty, truth, and light to a topic that I don’t feel I had my first go round.

A meager conclusion

This series has been pretty different than my typical content, and I guess now I am basically a full-blown mommy blogger. Whoops.

Allow me to wrap up this series with a testimony. I testify that God loves the work of mothers. He blesses mothers, and he foreordained motherhood. Childbearing is a difficult but holy work. Any way you choose or are able to bring life to this world is to be honored.

Let’s chat

What other questions do you have about my two experiences? How does my analysis here compare with your experiences or beliefs?

Birth Series (2) – A Water Birth Experience

An introduction and disclosure

If you’re here without having read birth story #1, that’s okay, but it will make more sense if you do.

And if you’re a Sparknotes kind of person, just check out my at-a-glance analysis of the 2 experiences.

As always, I try to write tasteful content, but I also strive for honesty, so prepare for a little TMI. I assume that you’re here, nosing into my blog, so you’re here for it, the good, the bad, and the personal. 😉

“We declare the means by which mortal life is created to be divinely appointed. We affirm the sanctity of life and of its importance in God’s eternal plan.”

The Family: A Proclamation to the World

It took me a long time to get to the point where I could process this story enough to share it. I thank the Lord for giving me the strength and faith to have another child and to seek a different path. I testify that He was with me, every step of the way.

I hope my story is enlightening and even encouraging to you. I believe in the strength and blessing of motherhood. Women, babies, birth—it’s all part of God’s divine design.

Baby #2 birth – the hippie way

A prologue

I was pregnant with my first baby when I was out walking with my sweet grandma near her home. We passed by a cute building that I noticed was advertising water birth.

My grandma asked me, “Wow, a water birth. Doesn’t that sound so relaxing?”

I actually laughed at her. I adamantly explained that birth was going to be the hardest thing ever for me, and there was no way I would ever do it without an epidural.

This is the story how, 2 years later, I gave birth, in the water, at that same birth center.

Beginning a paradigm shift

When I found out I was pregnant again, I began a rigorous self- and Spirit-led course of study and prayer. Besides the scriptures and general conference addresses, these are the sources that most influenced my choices with this birth: “Birth Series (A) – Childbirth Research Reviews”.

I didn’t know exactly what I wanted with this birth, but I knew I wanted something very different from the last one. I believed that these were some of the root problems from my first birth that I wanted to prepare to overcome for this second one:

  • Lack of preparation and education on my part
  • Hospital procedures (I suspected at least the epidural, maybe more)
  • Not working with my husband to set and defend boundaries
  • An anxious atmosphere

With this birth, I looked for anything that would make things different for me.

Preparation, moving doctors, and moving

Right away, I chose a new doctor at a different hospital. He was fantastic! He started asking me questions about what I wanted, and I felt much more in control of my birth experience. (I’m happy to make a recommendation.) He also prescribed me a slightly different anti-nausea medicine that I usually kept down; it made this pregnancy significantly more bearable.

I liked him a lot, but I felt like God was nudging me further in another direction. I felt him guide me through a vast amount of new information, which I took in via books, websites, and birth classes.

I hired a wonderful doula (whom I would also recommend). She was another great resource to talk through physical and emotional things going on throughout my pregnancy. She encouraged me to make this next step:

It was just after 20 (out of 40) weeks of pregnancy when I switched providers and began seeing a midwife at a birth center.

I loved my new midwife, who helped me take even more ownership of my experience. She guided me through diet and lifestyle solutions to symptoms I was experiencing (beyond nausea; I continued with the anti-nausea medicine for most of my pregnancy).

My midwife required I take a birth class; my husband and I enrolled in a Hypnobirthing class and practiced relaxation techniques together daily.

When I was around 30 weeks, we moved an hour and a half away from my midwife.

This was a stressful development, but we made plans to move in with my very generous grandparents at about 37 weeks so we could stay near my midwife until the baby came and I was somewhat recovered.

But one night at 36 weeks, after we had just settled into our new rental 90 minutes away from the birth center, I felt labor start up. I laid on the bed and willed my labor to stop. At the same time, I instructed my husband as he started packing our bags to be able to go at a moment’s notice.

Thankfully, it proved to be yet another round of false labor. Apparently, that’s how my body does labor. Still, we bumped up our schedule by a few days to get to my grandparents’ house.

My cute grandpa helping take care of our toddler while we stayed with them.

Take two again – but different

For the next several weeks, I had a lot of contractions, but patterned labor didn’t truly return until I had just surpassed 39 weeks.

Living on an exercise ball for that last few weeks.

All through church that Sunday, I had consistent contractions, but they were still well over 5 minutes apart. I went for a walk with my husband and tried to get things moving. I called my doula that day, and she helped talk me down from the stress and told me to let my body do what it was going to do on its own schedule. Around 11:00 pm, my labor started really getting intense. My doula came over, then she, my husband, and I went to the birth center a little before 1:00 am. I called my mom to come over in the morning and help my grandparents with our toddler for while I was at the birth center.

My midwife was there with her assistant. She had left the back door unlocked, and we let ourselves in.

An obsessive aside: the atmosphere

(Did you know the artsy millionaire inside of me really likes interior design? I try not to feed her obsession, because real me is too poor.)

The birth center was a far cry from the all-white, super sanitized feel of the labor and delivery floor of the hospital.

The beautiful Victorian home turned birth center featured two birth suites: the main floor and the third floor. The main floor still sported many antique and era-appropriate features, including a big, beautiful bathtub.

However, despite the doors sectioning out the rooms, I had fallen in love with the less popular suite on the top floor. Although it didn’t have a door to the room, it felt much more private. Up a narrow flight of stairs, the spacious loft had been remodeled with a more modern and somewhat over-the-top ocean/mermaid theme. The bathroom was a new addition, with a compact toilet and shower, and the birthing tub had to be inflated in the main living/bedroom area. The suite had a beautiful view of the temple and the sky, and I felt safe up there.

Back to the actual story – labor at the birth center

(This is the TMI you came here for.)

But let me tell you, going up the stairs in active labor was quite a bit of an achievement. The stairs were definitely the biggest downside.

I got settled on the couch. The midwife’s assistant checked my vitals and my baby’s heartbeat, then she pretty much left me alone. My midwife was out of the room most of the time; her assistant hung out at a desk that looked like it came from a high school on the far side of the spacious loft, working on some paperwork.

My doula and my husband just supported me. They helped me get comfortable, stay fed and watered, and try to relax through each contraction. I spent a lot of time on my side, and I think I dozed through a lot of it. The contractions were increasing in intensity, but for most of this time, I felt like the contractions took a lot of focus to relax through, and were even quite uncomfortable, but I felt mostly in control.

After perhaps two or three hours, the assistant offered to start filling up the tub, and I agreed. It took close to another hour for it to finish filling up. I went to the bathroom before getting in. I remember getting to the bathroom and then getting to the tub were starting to be challenging tasks.

At this point, I was only getting perhaps a minute of rest between each contraction, and they were getting very intense.

I had heard a lot of people say that getting in the tub would be the best moment. Many women describe the water as taking the edge off the pain, or even mostly washing it away. I did not experience that. If anything, getting in the water made for a more painful laboring experience. It’s hard to say if the water truly made it worse or if my labor was really just progressing. Either way, I’m certain this was about exactly the moment I hit transition.

The contractions started to get very, very powerful. It seemed to take over my body. I had a bit of a hard time keeping my head above water. Every time a contraction hit, I felt the urge to lie down again, but I no longer could.

I felt every contraction come on painfully right on the spot that had hurt most of my pregnancy, right at the bottom of my spine and center of the back of my hips, at the sacrum area. My wonderful doula decided that some counterpressure would help. I agreed and quickly begged them to keep the pressure there all the time. I couldn’t wait to tell them to do it when a contraction started because it came on so quickly so painfully. With the counterpressure, I felt much more in control and able to breathe through the contractions.

Then time started warping. It felt like it could have been five minutes or several hours. I know now that it was only around one hour. Somehow, on my knees and draped over the side of the tub, I mostly lost consciousness between each contraction.

Suddenly, I knew I needed to push. When I announced that I was going to start pushing, my midwife joined my husband and my doula around the pool.

At this point, I started getting really nauseous; I warned my team to get ready with a bag. My midwife quickly produced some mint essential oils, which definitely took the edge off of the nausea. I breathe-pushed through one or two contractions, but then at the next one, I hardly had a moment to get a barf bag under my face when I threw up right as I pushed. I was very surprised to discover that it actually felt almost great to throw up—like not that I felt better after, but that the act of throwing up felt really good. I had thrown up a lot of times (like seriously a freak ton of times) while pregnant, but this was the first time I had experienced that. My doula called that counterpressure, too.

Right as/before my baby crowned, I definitely felt what people call “the ring of fire.” This was the one part that was truly very, very painful. I leaned forward on my knees against the side of the pool and cried out in pain.

It didn’t last long; at least, it didn’t feel like long. Suddenly, my baby’s head was out, and the rest of him. In the end, it took 20 minutes of pushing to get him out. My midwife caught him and handed him to me.

Meeting baby #2

He’s here + a smooth recovery

I immediately felt great relief. I flipped onto my bottom and rested against the wall of the pool as I held my baby. He was calm, trying to blink around at me and the bright world around him. I was exhausted. My husband and I spoke to him and stroked his head. I smoothed his head and his back, running some of the water from the pool over him to clean him a little and keep him warm. Within a few moments, I got to help him latch and practice nursing briefly. (It was that fast!)

It was truly a sweet moment. I remember being shocked that I wasn’t in more pain. Time was still a little difficult to gauge, but after several minutes, my midwife helped me deliver the placenta, and she cut the cord.

At the birth center

I remember being surprised by a few things. I was surprised the water wasn’t yuckier, as I had imagined. I was also surprised by my ability to sit on my bottom without feeling tremendous pain. I was sore, for sure, but I didn’t feel anything like the pain I had had postpartum with my first baby.

Time was still pretty blurry. I think it was about a half hour to an hour after the birth when everyone helped me out, I dried off, used the bathroom, and put on a loose nursing dress. I think it was at this time that my midwife began performing some postnatal tests on my baby.  

They helped me into the pretty queen bed. My doula bid me a flowery, loving farewell. My midwife finished up weighing and collecting drops of blood for my baby’s blood test, then I received my one and only vaginal check from my midwife.

My midwife completed a few more checks on me. She inked my baby’s feet and decorated the birth center certificate with the feet, then a square of fabric for the birth center’s wall. She gave me some informational handouts, a belly wrap to borrow, and a menu to order breakfast to deliver from a local restaurant.

My midwife helped her assistant finish packing and cleaning up, then left my husband, me, and my new sweet baby alone in the loft of the birth center. “You can leave whenever you’re ready, in an hour, or later tonight.”

(It was a sweet thought, but the breakfast delivery payment actually had a glitch, so the food never came! I was ravenous, so my sweet mom brought food from my grandma’s house over. She stayed for about 15 minutes, then headed back.)

My husband and I got to snuggle our new sweet baby for a few hours. I treasure that time.

Then, we brought him home to my grandparents’ house. We stayed there for about another week before returning to our home a couple hours away. During that week, I received a few postpartum visits from my midwife and her assistant. They gave me 3 herbal sitz baths and hot rock massages on my belly.

It was so sweet to get so much snuggle time while my grandparents helped with the toddler.

My doula visited me a couple days after the birth as well. She brought me a perfect care package, complete with a cute houseplant, padsicles, and coconut oil for nipple cream.

My sweet baby slept in the storage room inside the basement bedroom my husband and I were staying in at my grandparents’ house.

He is truly a very healthy and happy baby.

Yes, there were some hard parts

I certainly had some vaginal soreness, but it was not nearly so intense nor as long-lasting as my first birth’s. It was practically gone after about 10 days.

I also had a lot of cramp-like abdominal pains—something I had barely experienced with my first birth—that were intense and frequent for about 10 days, then infrequent and less intense for the next couple weeks after that.

I had a lot of soreness from breastfeeding and, after coming home from the birth center, my baby started struggling to find a latch for the first couple of days. My midwife connected us with a very sweet, independent lactation specialist. She trained me in lactation as if I didn’t know anything at all (which was perfect). It just took a little bit of work for a couple days, then he was feeding just fine. He never needed to supplement with formula, and I never needed any nipple shields or other crazy equipment.

The only way he has been harder than my first baby is the frequency at which he’s needed to eat. My first loved to sleep very long stretches at night, but my second needed more frequent feedings as a newborn and now, as an older baby, still wakes much more frequently at night to eat.

Baby #2 at 4 months old

A happier end

There are a lot of voices who talk about natural birth. Some say it can be pain-free. I wouldn’t call my natural birth experience pain-free, but I would call it happy and empowering. I would absolutely choose it again.

Having this experience has helped me face and heal from my first birth experience. (Read here.)

It’s taken months of work, reflecting on and praying through both birth experiences, to bring these stories to you.

Lessons learned + at-a-glance comparison

For my very short notes analysis of the two experiences side-by-side, check out the final article in this (embarrassingly lengthy) series:

“Birth Series (3) – Comparing a Medical vs. a Natural Birth”

Chat about it

Now that I’ve borne some of my most personal moments to you, I’ll invite you to comment about it. (Yikes, that’s bad internet procedure.) How do these experiences compare with yours, or those of those you know? What surprised you?

Birth Series (1) – A Hospital Experience

An introduction and a disclosure

I request that you only read this story in tandem with part 2, the story of my second baby’s birth. Even though everyone was basically physically safe, this first birth was a very traumatic, negative experience for me—but if you stick with me through my second birth story, you’ll get to the happy ending.

If you’re not going to read both, please just read part 2. Or, if you’re a Sparknotes kind of person, just check out my at-a-glance analysis of the 2 experiences.

As always, I try to write tasteful content, but I also strive for honesty, so prepare for a little TMI. I assume that you’re here, nosing into my blog, so you’re here for it: the good, the bad, and the personal. 😉

“We declare the means by which mortal life is created to be divinely appointed. We affirm the sanctity of life and of its importance in God’s eternal plan.”

The Family: A Proclamation to the World

It took me a long time to get to the point where I could process this story enough to share it. I thank the Lord for giving me the strength and faith to have another child and to seek a different path. I testify that He was with me, every step of the way.

I hope my story is enlightening and even encouraging to you, in the end. I believe in the strength and blessing of motherhood. Women, babies, birth—it’s all part of God’s divine design.

Baby #1 birth – the normal route

I dreaded the birth experience, expecting the worst pain of my life. Childbirth was about my biggest fear since I was a child.

Add to that fear the fact that I had 9 months of a very challenging pregnancy, including severe morning sickness, it’s no wonder all I could think about was getting it over with.

I actively refused to learn more because it was so frightening and anxious a topic for me—so I know it’s my fault I walked into the situation blind.

8+ months pregnant with #1

A blind beginning

“Well, you look good. Your baby is measuring a good size, and your cervix looks like it’s starting to get ready. Do you want me to strip your membranes?”

I only felt like I vaguely understood what it meant, but both my mom and my doctor had encouraged me to go through with it. After my doctor reassured me that there were no real risks to the procedure, I let her go ahead. It was uncomfortable but not really painful, and it was fast.

As I left, my doctor said, “Tell your baby to come today or tomorrow! I go out of town this weekend. You’ll be fine either way, but keep telling your baby it’s time.”

That evening, I started experiencing spotting and contractions. They got closer and closer, about 3-4 minutes apart for an hour. I called the hospital, and they told me to come in. I was admitted to the hospital, but the labor slowed and I was sent away to labor at home.

To my bewilderment, my labor slowed then stopped the next day.

Take two: “real” labor

It returned again one day later. Once again, I got to 3-4 minutes apart for 1-2 hours at home then returned to the hospital. After a couple hours at the hospital, my labor again began to slow down. To my relief, a sympathetic nurse gave me the option to have pitocin or to go home again. I chose pitocin. I had already decided on an epidural, and I received one about 8 hours into my labor. 

The placement of the epidural was very painful and took several minutes and a few tries to get right.

Analysis from the future: For where I was at emotionally and mentally at the time, the epidural was absolutely the right choice. I was anxious out of my mind, and it wasn’t until I got the epidural that my labor really started to seriously get underway. I was able to relax my muscles and allow my body to do its job.

It was about this time I was getting desperately hungry. The most substantial food I was allowed was some beef broth, which I drank gratefully. I also wanted to be able to move around, but I didn’t worry too much about it because I was just relieved to not feel any more pain.

For about a couple hours of labor, I was able to doze and get some rest. I started to feel the pain, and I turned up the dose a couple of times on the epidural to keep up.

I could feel my body and mind getting tired. But pretty suddenly, I started feeling the urge to push. I knew our baby was coming.

I informed the nurses I was starting to push. They immediately told me to stop. They said I couldn’t have the baby right now because the doctor on call wasn’t there yet.

This was the only point in my birth at which I feel like I stuck up for myself. I told them I was absolutely not waiting.

Apparently, I convinced them to help me. My husband helped a nurse put my feet in the stirrups and held my hand. The nurse coached me through pushing through my contractions. (This strategy is what I now know is called “purple pushing.”) She at first tried to allow me only one big breath of pushing per contraction, but I insisted that was not sufficient and I went for two or three.

It seemed like 5, but my husband said I pushed for about 45 minutes total.

Time was really confusing for this part, but I think it was about a half hour later when the doctor arrived. (It wasn’t my doctor; it was the doctor on call, whom I had never before met.) It seemed he arrived only in time to tell me, “oh, her head is a little stuck. I’m going to just make a small incision, alright?” I think I said something like, “Whatever.” I didn’t feel a thing.

She was born almost right away.

Baby #1, day 1

She’s here?

They gave her to me to hold her skin to skin for a few moments. I think I was in shock when she was placed on my chest. I remember thinking, That was it? This is my baby? Huh, she is actually cute. And what a head of hair! I felt happy to meet her.

It was during this time that the doctor stitched me up before leaving. I was still numb, in shock, and hardly noticed. He left, and I never saw him again. I still don’t know how many stitches I had, how long the episiotomy was, or how much natural tearing I had.

We attempted breastfeeding for a minute, but she was too sleepy. The staff said we could try again in the recovery room, then they took her to the other side of the room to clean her and do tests.

We were only allowed in the delivery room for one hour after the birth; then, my incredibly weak body was lifted into a wheelchair, pushed into an elevator, and moved to another floor and into a recovery room.

That marks the end of the more positive part of my experience.

An annoyingly vague aside

It was there that an incident occurred that was not truly the fault of the hospital’s. I consider it inappropriate to share openly. I bring it up to explain a gap in the story and to share what I wish I’d known before. I learned many things from that day that I deeply regret not understanding before. I should have advocated for myself, set boundaries, worked with my husband to express my wishes for myself and my baby, and created a plan of what I wanted.

You can bring a baby to milk, but you can’t make her drink

As it was a holiday weekend, it seemed a new nurse walked into the room every hour during my time in the recovery room.

And the next thing I knew, a new nurse walked into the room and asked if the baby had eaten. I said no; she had just been sleeping. I had had no idea when she needed to eat and had assumed somebody else would tell me. (I know, bad move.)

The nurse immediately said with alarm, “She was born four hours ago and hasn’t eaten? She has to eat now.”

I tried again for a few minutes to get my baby to perk up and try to breastfeed (and try to figure out how I would help her breastfeed anyway even if she did wake up) but she hardly stirred. The nurse snapped into action and whipped out a bottle of formula. My husband fed our baby her first meal. I watched in confusion. I tried not to cry, and I told myself there was no reason to cry.

I had felt stunned and elated when my baby was placed on my chest for the first time. But the rest of that day (and truly, several days and weeks), I felt stunned in another way. I felt out of control of my life. I felt like things were happening to me and to my baby, and I had no way to control any of it. I felt steamrolled and confused. I was exhausted and dazed from the work and sleep deprivation.

“All the nurses were trained in lactation,” they told me, and I kept trying to get them to help me nurse my baby. The nurses helped me pump for the first time. I didn’t see anything come out. I was confused about if I was using it right, and it hurt, and I felt humiliated. Finally, over a day after the birth, a hospital-staffed, actual lactation specialist came to my room and helped me use a nipple shield, a syringe, a tube, and formula to supposedly help my baby learn how to nurse. It was a confusing, challenging time. I felt wrong, uncomfortable, frustrated, and ashamed for using this bizarre method.

Thankfully, a few days later, I was miraculously connected with a recently retired lactation specialist from another state who taught me how to train my baby and my body to nurse properly. It was a frustrating and painful process. Even though my baby was good at latching, she frequently got upset about the work involved and would unlatch every moment or two to thrash, scream, and scratch at me.

It wasn’t until about 2 months along that we were both somewhat comfortable with breastfeeding. Except in a very removed, abstract way, I neither related nor understood the starry-eyes expressions of gratitude for the sweet, bonding experience of nursing a baby. It took many months to get over the bitterness of hearing other moms express that breastfeeding was “so easy.”

After all this, however, I give thanks and honor to God for strengthening me and guiding me to receive the help I needed to exclusively breastfeed until my baby was 9 months old.

Baby #1 around 10 months

Pain of the brain and body

Then comes the discussion of the postpartum pain. While in the hospital, I felt some pain but mostly a lot of shock, tenderness, and fatigue. I remember a nurse refusing to help me get to the bathroom, acting a little disgusted. “We helped you the first time; the second time, you should be able to do it yourself.” I shook and trembled the whole time. I stayed on the prescription pain medication as well as ibuprofen my whole 2 days postpartum. I struggled to find any position that wasn’t painful in the hospital bed. Getting in and out was very painful.

When I got home, I didn’t feel much increased physical pain for the first couple hours. However, a few hours later, the pain hit me like a truck. I began to cry in pain. I couldn’t find a comfortable position. Sitting up was painful. Nursing was torture, between the vaginal pain, sore nipples, and scratches from my baby. Getting in and out of bed, especially alone, was very painful. Even lying down, I couldn’t get the pain to subside.

Right after taking Ibuprofen or Tylenol, it was somewhat manageable, but every time it began to wear off and before I could take the other, I began to cry. The next morning after leaving the hospital, I called to see if I could get a pain medication prescribed, but they told me I would need to physically come to receive the prescription. I laughed through the tears. I couldn’t get to or sit in a car! So I just cried through it.

The emotional roller coaster shook me. I now realize I wasn’t just experiencing dramatic hormonal changes and sleep deprivation; the shock and adrenaline were also wearing off. I cried so much those first few days, and even weeks. Almost every time my husband left the apartment or even the room I got weepy. I cried daily as I nursed. I cried from being so tired. I let myself wallow in the self-pity of not only being confined to our apartment for the majority of my pregnancy but for the many weeks that seemed to stretch on and on.

To my memory, I bled quite heavily for about 2 weeks; I continued to need pads for about a month; then I needed pantiliners until about exactly 2 months postpartum. This is less than medically alarming, but certainly well above average bleeding.

Not postpartum ?

I had my 6 week postpartum checkup. Y’know, every husband’s favorite OB-GYN appointment. I was cleared to go back to normal, physically. (This surprised me, since I still felt so far from physically well.)

My doctor brushed away my complaints about my back. I continued to feel pain from the epidural insertion point for about 6 months after birth.

She was, however, concerned about my psychological assessment scores. She recommended I get into a psychologist and connected me with some referrals. I called them and was dismayed to discover they were all booked out for at least 3 months. 3 months?! We were planning on having moved far away by that point. I didn’t meet with anyone.

I tried to get better on my own, physically and otherwise. I worked out. I did yoga. I finally got enough sleep. Eventually, months later, I was a lot better.

Physically, I was probably better than ever. (Well, besides losing most of my hair. I dropped to probably about half as much hair as I had had pre-pregnancy.) I was stronger and more flexible than before. I even fit back into my high school pants.

Emotionally, I was better. I focused on the natural things that improve mental/emotional health: got sunlight, ate healthy foods, exercised, slept enough, drank plenty of water.

I carried a lot of pain, though. I could hardly think about my sweet baby’s birth without risking tears. I was angry with everyone involved—including myself. I did my best to box the experience away and move on. I told myself I would simply never have another baby.

Cue this blog post: The Right Time to Have Another Kid + Why I’m Pregnant Again.

An awkward not-end

Usually, I wrap up each post with an invite to share, but I really don’t want anyone to stop here. It would be a pretty depressing ending. Thank God that it’s not the end.

Please follow me to the resolution here: Birth Series: Birth #2

Lessons learned + at-a-glance comparison

For my very short notes analysis of the two experiences side-by-side, check out the final article in my (embarrassingly lengthy) series:

Birth Series (3) – Comparing a Medical vs. a Natural Birth”

Birth Series (A) – Childbirth Research Reviews

For my second birth, I did a lot of research. I took two formal classes. I went to the library and checked out every book I could find on natural childbirth. I bought a few other books. I watched YouTube videos, read articles online, and did a lot of praying.

I didn’t know exactly what I was looking for, but I knew I wanted something different than my first birth and postpartum experience. And I got it.

My second birth was a beautiful, empowering experience that I look back on happily and proudly. It was a positive start to my relationship with my baby, and it brought my husband and me together, too.

Now I can say I’ve been the mainstream hospital/pitocin/epidural route, and I’ve done the midwife/doula/water birth route. I’m ready to share my reviews of some of the key resources I used in taking this challenging journey.

If you’re curious about the natural birth world, this is a great place to start. I’ll go through my review of the natural birth community, classes, books, and more.

The Natural Birth Community as a Whole

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I met with midwives, doulas, birth instructors, and even a couple chiropractors and a massage therapist who all made a career of supporting pregnant women. Overall, I was very impressed with the natural birth community.

Pros

It impressed me just how committed they are to the cause. They really believe in it. They also really believe in empowering women. (Most of them are women.) I feel like the natural birth community is the underground feminist movement. And most of these women were extremely well-educated; although most of them need less formal education to perform their jobs than a labor-and-delivery hospital staff might, they hadn’t stopped at the required level of education. They truly wanted to do all they could to be the best support they could be, and to provide the highest-quality care possible.

Cons

Much, but not all, of the community is a little short on data and good statistical analysis. It’s a shame, because there is a good amount of data that indicates the safety and, in many cases, superiority of a more natural approach to childbirth. Insurance is much less friendly to natural childbirth. Of course, there are women and pregnancies that require a more medical approach to childbirth, so it can’t be for everyone.

Who it’s for

If you’re pregnant, might be someday, or are married to someone who is pregnant or might be someday, meeting and learning about the natural birth community is for you.

Doulas

Rating: 5 out of 5.

If I had had a doula for my first birth, I think it would have been instantly a drastically better situation. I didn’t know how to stand up for myself or that I would really need to. My doula for my second birth was fantastic. She helped me walk through pregnancy challenges, prepare for birth, embrace the experience with confidence and proper tools, and recover smoothly after birth.

Pros

Doulas are awesome. They are wonderful advocates to have in the room during your birth—a time when your attention is usually pretty absorbed. They can help your partner stand up for you and your goals. They can help with pain relief strategies, remember to move, remember to eat, and just helping you feel confident and supported. Depending on the package you pay for, they can support you through pregnancy and a few weeks postpartum by helping you make a birth plan, pointing you to ideas to relieve pregnancy symptoms, and/or even helping you with the dishes.

Cons

They can be pretty expensive and often not covered by insurance. It may also take some work to find a good fit for you.

Who they’re for

If you’re pregnant, and especially if it’s your first baby, and especially if you can find a good match, a doula is for you (regardless of your birth goals).

Childbirth classes:

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

My midwife requires all her clients to take a birth class. My mom, who used to be a labor and delivery nurse, said that of the women she saw who came in wanting a natural birth, only those who had taken a class were usually successful.

Pros

In my opinion, taking a birth class with your husband/birth partner is key to both an anxiety-free pregnancy and a smooth birth experience. A birth class helps you work together to practice relaxation techniques and create a written birth plan. (A plan can be helpful to give to your birth team, but perhaps even more importantly it helps you and your partner get on the same page about what to do in many situations.) I definitely would recommend getting into a physical, in-person class if possible, but virtual classes can still be very good.

Cons

They can be costly and hard to fit into your schedule. It can also be hard to find a class with a birth technique you can believe in enough to really try, not to mention an instructor you love. Beware of emotional appeals and sweeping claims; natural birth instructors may care more about anecdotes and theories than about statistics—even though many statistics do back up many of those claims. It will take a little extra skepticism and work to seek evidence of such claims.

Who it’s for

If you think you might want to have a natural birth, and especially if you have a partner who will attend with you and be at the birth, a birth class is for you.

The Mighty Mama Movement Birth Class

Rating: 2 out of 5.

I would rate this as just okay. The actual content of the course was generally good, and it was enough to get me started. It was one of the first things I explored as I began researching natural birth, and clearly it encouraged me to keep learning.

Pros

It’s an accessible, at home, on-demand video course with supplements. It is a fairly comprehensive course, including some postnatal units. It’s a spinoff of hypnobirthing and comes with a few free tracks. You also get an invite into their Facebook group, Mighty Mama Movement (even though I found out you can still join without purchasing the class).

Cons

The cost was similar to other birth classes, but I definitely rate this as a lower quality course. For one, the production quality was quite low (but I know they were beginning the process of improving it). There was very little data or statistics used throughout the course. I was unimpressed with the ethics of their business model when I discovered that their “live” webinars were not just heavy-handed advertisements (which is normal for webinars) but also pre-recorded; even the chats were fake.

Who it’s for

If you want to learn about natural childbirth from on-demand videos and don’t care as much about perfect quality, this class may be for you.

Local Zoom Hypnobirthing Class (Mongan Method):

Rating: 3 out of 5.

My husband and I took a Hypnobirthing class over Zoom. It was 6 weeks long, about 3 hours each Saturday morning. It was good, but I wouldn’t say it was an incredible experience. It also wasn’t my first choice; I had really wanted to take a Hypnobabies class. I had found a great teacher and had registered for her class, but it was canceled at the last minute due to low enrollment. The Hypnobirthing class was my fallback; I barely finished it in time for baby to be born.

Pros

A Zoom birth class was really good for us. Since we had a toddler underfoot, it would have been very hard to have attended an in-person class for us; however, it would have been nice to have had an in-person class, if COVID and family situations had permitted. The content of the class was good. Most of the content was covered in the text (Hypnobirthing: The Mongan Method, reviewed below). I liked the intimate class size and that we got to go through the class, experience pregnancy, and prepare for birth together. We got some new relaxation scripts and tracks to use, which were very helpful, and got to use some class time to practice together. It was good to have the class to motivate my husband and I to do the daily relaxation practices, which were key to the success of our class and birth experience.

Cons

Take this all with a grain of salt; many of my cons are specific to me. Because I had done so much reading already, most of the class time was information I had already learned a few times over. In other words, I was bored out of my mind. The teacher was not a great match for me; I think I would have gotten a lot more out of the class if I had had a teacher who was a little more my style. (She was fine, but a little on the… extra side.) I also just didn’t totally love the text for the class.

Who it’s for

If you’re interested in learning about a childbirth method that aims to nearly eradicate pain and are willing to put in the time to practice daily and do some extra research, this class may be for you.

Books

I won’t bother to review books generally. Duh, I endorse reading. These are the books I read all or most of and would recommend:

The Gift of Giving Life: Rediscovering the Divine Nature of Pregnancy and Birth

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I think every woman (and maybe every member) in the Church should read this book. It is a book about pregnancy and birth from the medical, historical, and personal perspectives of women of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It brought the Spirit into my heart as I planned and prepared for this birth. It helped me feel peace and even some excitement about giving birth. I felt connected with the many mothers in my ancestry, as well as with early mothers in the Church. I felt that I better understood my Savior, my Heavenly Parents, and myself because of this book.

Pros

This book clearly embraces the divinity of each mother’s pregnancy and birth journey, from miscarriages to healthy babies, from home births to hospital births, from cesareans to natural births, from infertility to multiple births, from trying to conceive to postpartum recovery. It was frank and informative about what you might be able to expect in pregnancy and birth. It is faith-building. Despite being a large book, it is easy to read; the book is broken up into several sections with many short stories and articles within.

Cons

While it does give many anecdotes and teach many principles, this book does not go into much detail about specific, practical steps to prepare for pregnancy or birth. If you want to learn much in detail about any sort of birthing method, for example, this is not the book to read.

Who it’s for

If you are a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, this book is for you.

Childbirth Without Fear: The Principles and Practice of Natural Childbirth

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This was the first book I read when I started exploring alternatives to my last hospital experience, and as it turns out, it was a good place to start. It’s written by Dr. Dick-Read, perhaps the first big name in revolutionizing childbirth, so if you’re interested in learning more about childbirth, his name and book will probably come up. If you’re anxious about childbirth, natural or otherwise, I definitely recommend this book. It opened my mind and heart up a lot to tackling my immense phobia of birth. I daresay it is life-changing.

Pros

It’s a great introduction to the history of birth and obstetrics. I learned a lot about where various practices come from. It was a great book to help me begin to break through some of my biggest mind blocks to the idea of childbirth.

Cons

The new book cover is a major con for sure. (Thankfully, I read an older edition of the book—good thing, too! I’m not sure I would have checked out the book with its current cover.) It’s dated and sometimes slightly cringy and sexist. It’s a bit of a slower read. There is some advice in it that is unquestionably incorrect (e.g., some outdated dietary advice), and I found small parts that I morally don’t agree with. It depends a little too much on anecdotal evidence and is too light on statistics to bring some points home. (That said, as a pioneer in the field of natural birth, there wasn’t much to go off of.)

Who it’s for

If you’re scared of childbirth, and if you go in prepared for the cons, this book is for you.

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

This might be the most popular book these days about natural childbirth in general. I read it fairly early on, and it was pretty helpful. I learned a lot from it.

Pros

It’s a pretty good introduction to natural childbirth and childbirth in general. It isn’t the most dated book out there. One major pro is that it is not specific to any particular childbirth method; this means it can apply to any you choose and can also work as a pretty good starting point as you decide your childbirth method.

Cons

Like many sources in the natural birth community, it is too attached to ideology to the point of being perhaps overly judgmental of medical birth. The entire first half of the book is just birth stories, which I wasn’t really happy to have paid for. It also just gets pretty granola, if you know what I mean.

Who it’s for

If you’re interested in learning about childbirth, this book is for you.

Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I liked this book pretty well. It’s the more popular out of the two main books about the Bradley Method. With a refreshing matter-of-fact approach, the Bradley Method is all about being well educated about birth, the inherent struggle and pain thereof, and how to embrace the experience. (Disclaimer: I did not purchase this book and read it now months ago, so my memory on it is a little foggy.)

Pros

The book is actionable and realistic. You can expect lots of diagrams and actionable advice. It was a pretty easy read. And it’s a landscape-shaped book, and that’s pretty cool (unless that kind of thing bugs you). I believe it would also be a pretty good basic introduction to natural childbirth.

Cons

I remember the girls in the illustrations were wearing some really wonky clothes.

Who it’s for

If you’d like to learn about a natural childbirth method that acknowledges and embraces the pain and the tough stuff, this book is for you.

Hypnobirthing: The Mongan Method

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

This one was perhaps my least favorite book on the topic. In fairness, I read this one last of all, so almost none of the information was new to me. If it’s the only book you read, you will probably find it more helpful. However, I don’t recommend reading it alone; this book was about the worst as far as bringing in facts, data, and statistics. Be prepared for a lot of discussion about her pet cat’s birth. (Yes, it was helpful and interesting, but it’s not necessarily the best reason to follow this book’s advice.) Despite all this, I chose hypnobirthing for my birth. This book was my childbirth class textbook. In this book, you will learn to relax your mind and let your body do its job. (It’s amazing how powerful your brain is in determining how it experiences sensations and emotions.) The book includes a few hypnosis/relaxation scripts your partner can do with you.

Pros

If you want to look into hypnobirthing, this is a good place to start. It is very helpful for learning the very basics of natural childbirth and for the ins and outs of the main hypnobirthing philosophy. It’s eye-opening and has a decent amount of actionable advice.

Cons

It’s extremely heavy on the anecdotal evidence and the philosophical push, and it’s very light on statistics, data, and cited facts. This doesn’t necessarily mean each claim is false, but it does require you approach it with a critical mind. If you aren’t ready to do some additional research on your own to find evidence for the claims, you set yourself up to fall for emotional appeals and potentially faulty conclusions.

Who it’s for

If you want to learn about a childbirth method that aims to nearly eradicate pain and are willing to do some extra research, this book is for you.

Other resources

Because they were much more minor parts of my journey, and because they have a lot of free resources for you to check out on your own, I’m not going to write full reviews about these sources. Please know that by linking them I do not endorse everything from them, but I do consider them to be helpful sources to refer to on the topic.

Bridget Taylor (YouTube channel)

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Evidence Based Birth (website)

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

What would you add?

If you’ve done any sort of research about birth (medicated or unmedicated), what sources would you point someone to to learn more? Share in the comments. I would love for this page to become a wealth of knowledge for new moms.

When Going to Church Is Hard + The Time I Was Inactive

So many people dear to my heart have, in the last couple of years, publicly or privately, announced that they are leaving the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have been made privy to at least some of their reasons.

Here is a simple breakdown of what I see as the most common reasons to stop attending church:

  • Mental/emotional health. Church is too stressful or anxious a place to be worth trying to attend.
  • Social. Feel completely alone at church. Feel betrayed, lonely, offended, or ostracized by members. Concerned from seeing members’ hypocrisy and mistakes. Would rather connect or reconnect with friends outside the Church.
  • Physical health. Injury, illness, or other health condition. COVID-19, anyone?
  • Family. Wanting to keep the peace at home, especially with a spouse dragging their feet.

Some of these, particularly reasons of health, are perfectly valid reasons to miss physical Church meetings for a time or even, in a few cases, indefinitely.

I believe everyone has at least one reason to leave behind the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Mine: anxiety.

This is my story of when I was inactive.

Before I get to that part, let me tell you two stories from my mission.

#1 – Discovering church anxiety—as a missionary

I had always known I had some level of anxiety, particularly social anxiety, but I had never really gotten it treated. The pressures of missionary life amped it up to an all-time high.

During church one day, just a few minutes into class, I felt myself begin to hyperventilate. The room began to spin, and I felt completely petrified. I told my companion I needed to go to the restroom. Tears were beginning to form as I hurried past everybody, hoping nobody looked me in the eye.

Upon arrival at the bathroom, I completely broke down. We ducked into the small mother’s lounge located in the restroom. My irrational mind believed I mustn’t let anybody see a missionary crying.

(At the moment I felt bad, and now I feel totally awful about commandeering the mother’s lounge! Please, nobody do that.)

My companion tried to calm me down, with little success. I stayed in there for at least a half hour, shaking, hyperventilating, crying, unable to control my mind or body.

At some point, I realized I had to do something to work off all the adrenaline, so we snuck out to go home and get a snack. After another half hour or so, we attempted to resume our normal missionary activities.

I don’t really remember what happened the rest of that day, but I remember being pretty spooked. That was the first time I remember having a full-on anxiety attack for seemingly no reason.

I think it happened a couple more times on my mission. Church and other social events were (and still are) common triggers for me. I tried to get help, but at this point, I didn’t know how to get the help I needed.

I learned how to cope, more or less, on my own. I got better at detecting the problem earlier and dealing with the adrenaline, so I don’t think it ever got to be as dramatic as that day.

#2 – Finding meaning in the challenge

At the same time I had had my first anxiety attack in church, my companion and I had been teaching two friends, whom I will call Marcus and Anabel.

Marcus was baptized but hadn’t been to church in a long time. He was a veteran, had PTSD, and, despite our insistence otherwise, worried he couldn’t bring his service dog, a very loyal and well-trained retriever. Anabel was at least very shy, and I suspect she had social anxiety like me. In short, they both were very uncomfortable being around a lot of people at once, and it was a big barrier for them coming to church.

After having invited them to church for weeks, and shortly after my own attack at church, general conference weekend came up. We planned and delivered a very prayerful message about general conference and invited them to come watch a session at the chapel with us. I felt prompted to tell them my own story about having anxiety at church and how I still continued to attend.

Marcus asked, “Why do you still keep going? It’s because you’re a missionary and you have to, right?”

“No.” I explained that, if I wanted to, I could go home anytime. I admitted that being a missionary and having the expectations that go along with it made it easier for me to go to church but that that wasn’t why I kept going.

I kept going because I had promised to God that I would. I knew that was what He wanted me to do. Even though my fears about having an attack again were valid, I knew God’s commandments and His promises were worth that risk.

Marcus and Anabel both came to the chapel that Sunday to watch general conference. There might have been a dozen others in the very sparse crowd at the chapel, and the room was darkened. I’m not sure anyone even noticed them come in, service dog and all.

I know the Holy Spirit is what truly made the biggest difference in them taking the big step of faith to come to church, but I like to believe hearing my story made some impact in lending Marcus and Anabel some faith. I hope I was a part of helping them see that it’s possible to acknowledge valid fears and to serve God anyway.

I share this second experience because it helped me gain some meaning for my challenge in attending church and because it inspires me to share this final part of my story with you.

My peak anxiety: when I was “inactive”

I was just about to graduate with my bachelor’s degree. I was an excellent student, but that didn’t mean I was perfect. My anxiety got in the way.

My last semester, I got my first F in my life when I walked out of a private voice lesson in a completely unexpected anxiety attack and couldn’t bear to show my face again for my final recital.

Church meetings were difficult for me. Sitting with my husband, I could usually make it through sacrament meeting and Sunday School, but I was increasingly unable to attend or make it all the way through Relief Society (the women’s class).

It was already a struggle when I found out I was pregnant and my world turned upside down.

(I know, I talk about it a lot, and it sounds really dramatic, but it was a serious turning point in my life.)

Between failure to keep food (or water) down due to nausea, inability to move due to fatigue, and emotional havoc due to hormones, my anxiety became overwhelming. I cried every day. It’s hard to say how much was from physical pain and how much was from my mental and emotional tornado.

Obviously, I missed nearly every Church meeting and activity for several months.

I began to pull out of the debilitating level of morning sickness around halfway through my pregnancy, and I gradually started emerging from my cave.

It must have been when I was about 5-6 months pregnant when I finally stepped into the Relief Society room. It felt like walking onto a battlefield to face an enemy I had once fought and barely escaped with my life from.

I sat down and waited for the room to fill in. (It’s always best to arrive early to claim a seat and let others fill in the space rather than show up and have to impose myself on existing groups.)

One sister sat next to me. I immediately recognized her as a gal who lived in my apartment building; we had met and spoken at a mutual friend’s apartment several months back, and since then, we had even communicated in the comments within the ward Facebook page. I gave her a small smile in greeting and hoped she wouldn’t want to talk. Or maybe that she would but that it wouldn’t be too draining.

She was all energy. She smiled at me. “Hi, I’m Trisha!” (Not her real name.) “Are you new?”

Ah. She didn’t remember me. I wished I hadn’t come.

I tried to inject some positivity and friendliness into my voice—but also kind of hoped my answer would end the conversation. “No, I’ve lived here for over a year. I just haven’t been to Relief Society since probably January.”

She froze. I can’t promise I know exactly what happened in her head, but I’m pretty sure it went something like this.

I’m talking to an inactive member who has finally come back to church. How do I not screw this up? The next thing I say will determine her entire salvation. I have one chance at this.

She looked me in the eye and gave me a look that I know was meant to express sincere love but made me feel like some ugly mutt breed of puppy with a broken leg stuck under a rock.

“Well, we are so happy you’re here.”

We? Who is we? Her response felt anything but genuine—and it definitely didn’t leave much room for any kind of natural response.

Thankfully, the conversation was over and class began. She didn’t say anything else to me—that day or ever, to my memory.

That was the only conversation I remember having with anyone that day at church. I went home pensive and confused.

A couple of things dawned on me.

First, I had taken on the label of “inactive.”

Sure, I had asked for the sacrament to be brought to me many times, a request granted by my husband and an accommodating ministering brother. I had continued my daily prayer and scripture study (however hazy my mind), and my husband and I had continued our family home evenings.

But in the eyes of the average ward member, I had simply sent my husband to church alone for months and chosen to stay home.

Second, I was experiencing, briefly and to a certain degree, what it feels like to return to church after inactivity.

I know nobody else’s experience will be the same as mine—which was a mild one, I admit. However, I feel my experience has lent me just enough perspective to accurately make a few suggestions, both to those who are returning or struggling to attend church, as well as to those who currently actively attend.

For those returning or struggling to attend church

“Fear not, little children, for you are mine, and I have overcome the world, and you are of them that the Father hath given me;”

Doctrine and Covenants 50:41

I know what it feels like to go week after week to church and really struggle to make friends there. I know what it feels like to miss months of church, often in serious physical and internal pain, and not have anyone reach out. I know what it feels like to return to church and not feel like anyone remembers you ever existed.

During my hiatus, I was truly struggling. I would have loved any sort of help or even messages that I was remembered and missed.

Even when I returned, I still felt far from embraced by the people around me.

If I had been in a different place spiritually at that time, this experience might have led to me fully giving up on Church life.

However, it’s during these times of difficulty during which we must cling to the reasons to stay. And while some may have social, family, or other reasons to attend church, eventually, the reason to stay will have to be the most important one of all:

Your reason has to be spiritual.

Anchor yourself to your faith in God. Anchor yourself to Jesus Christ and building your relationship with Him. Pray for the strength and vision to come and keep coming.

If you struggle keeping God at the center of your worship, or if church is still hard for you anyway, may I suggest a few tips.

Tip #1

Remember, this isn’t just church, or the Mormon Church, or the LDS Church. This is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

You might worry that others won’t accept you, but the only person whose acceptance matters is your Savior’s. He always has a seat, an ear, and a kind word for you. He sees your sacrifice to be there and will accept your offering of gratitude, love, and worship to Him.

Tip #2

I know it might feel awkward, but consider reaching out and asking for the help you need or want.

The Church is full of people who don’t know what they’re doing, and often, they’re just as lonely as you. They might feel like they would be bothering you if they reached out. If you want connection and help, try to talk to your ministering brothers or sisters, contact your Relief Society or Elders’ Quorum president, or reach out to your bishop. Even if you don’t know them, you might be surprised how much they may want to help you.

It’s possible they won’t do a good job, but they are probably trying.

Tip #3

Focus outward instead of inward. Look for someone to welcome and serve.

This story from Sister Oscarson, former Young Women General President, has long resided in my mind:

Occasionally our children would ask us the question, “Why do I have to go to Mutual? I just don’t get very much out of it.”

If I was having a good parenting moment, I would reply, “What makes you think you go to Mutual because of what you get out of it?’

…I can guarantee that there will always be someone at every Church meeting you attend who is lonely, who is going through challenges and needs a friend, or who feels like he or she doesn’t belong. You have something important to contribute to every meeting or activity, and the Lord desires for you to look around at your peers and then minister as He would.

It is as I have prayed to know whom and how to serve that I have found the greatest sense of belonging at church. It is when I became the one to help others, even in my moments of loneliness and struggles, that I found friendship and meaning.

Tip #4

Don’t give up! If you miss an hour, a week, a month, or a year, you get another chance to start over every single Sunday.

“… our destiny is not determined by the number of times we stumble but by the number of times we rise up, dust ourselves off, and move forward.”

“You Can Do It Now!”, Elder Uchtdorf, October 2013

Jesus Christ’s sacrifice was for you personally, despite and because of your imperfections. It’s never too late to come back to take the sacrament. 

Tip #5

Turn to God for help. Pray for Him to give you strength to overcome. Seek personal revelation to know what else you should do to make worship possible or easier.

I testify of His interest in you and your situation. He wants you to come back to Him, and He will always make it possible. If you ask Him, He will help you.

For active members

I don’t blame Trisha for what she said or did. I’m not offended by her admittedly awkward attempt to make me feel welcome.

I think a lot of members would have done the same thing with good intentions.

That said, here is a list of tips for members who are active who want to know how they can help people maintain or return to activity in the Church:

Tip #1

Minister to those you are assigned to. Get to know them. Even if they seem like they don’t need anything, make sure you know who they are, make sure they know who you are, and frequently offer to do specific things with or for them.

Even if it’s been months or years since you got the assignment, reach out anyway! It might feel awkward, but you will be blessed for it. 

Tip #2

Focus on creating and strengthening loving, sincere relationships.

Welcome everybody at church, especially new faces and those you haven’t seen in awhile. Try to get to know those you sit by and serve with at Church.

Reach out to others in your ward boundaries, members or not, active or not. Pray for charity, help to see others as God sees them, the ability to know how to best serve them, and for God to bless them.

I know this can be hard! I struggle meeting new people. It’s not comfortable, and I’m not good at it. However, I trust that God will bless me for my efforts and maybe even let me be a part of Him blessing others, too.

Tip #3

When it seems somebody rejects you or your invitations, don’t give up on them! Continue to be their genuine friend anyway.

Even if it doesn’t lead to them coming to church, don’t stop being their friend! Don’t be annoying, but don’t give up on them, either. People will see you as fake if you only want to be their friend if they come to church.

No matter who you are

“…if you have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?
“Behold, I say unto you, that the good shepherd doth call you; yea, and in his one name he doth call you, which is the name of christ; and if ye will not hearken unto the voice of the good shepherd, to the name by which ye are called, behold, ye are not the sheep of the good shepherd.”

Alma 5:26, 38

I testify that God wants you at church. Jesus invites you to join and stay with the fold. Whether or not you feel needed or wanted by anyone else, He wants you there.

I testify that church is a wonderful opportunity to worship Him and feel His love and guidance. You will feel the difference if you make the sacrifice to go. 

I testify that you have something important to offer to building up His kingdom. There is someone who needs your testimony, service, love, and example, whether you know it or not.

In case you haven’t heard it before, I’ll be the one to say: Please come, please stay, please come back.

Additional study

Share

Tell us in the comments: When was a time when going to church was hard for you? Are you in that time right now? What advice do you have for others?

The Right Time to Have Another Kid + Why I’m Pregnant AGAIN

The Right Time to Have Kids: Part II

First of all, please know this is seriously none of your business. Please don’t go asking pregnant ladies why they are (or are not!) pregnant, and please don’t ask me to elaborate more than I choose to here.

Why I’m pregnant again

My heart was (and still is!) set on adopting and/or fostering—and not on doing the whole childbearing thing again.

But God had other plans.

God began to tell me I needed to get pregnant again when my baby was perhaps just under a year old. When I heard His strong suggestions, I wasn’t anxious. I was downright terrified.

I didn’t know if this pregnancy would be any better (or worse) than the last. The way my last one went, I didn’t know how I would be able to take care of myself, let alone my 1-year-old.

What I do know is God. I know He told us we need to do this. His voice was firm.

When I pleaded if I could just wait a little longer, I heard Him tell me, “You can, but you will regret it.”

I lay my body, my life, my everything at the Lord’s feet to do His will.

My pregnancy started out practically the same as the last. For about a month, my life came to a screeching halt. I canceled or delegated out practically all of my responsibilities, and I scheduled out angel babysitters and family members to care for my baby because I was incapable.

By the grace of God, I have since been blessed with wonderful gifts from friends, technological advances, and medical personnel that have reduced my symptoms to a much more manageable level. While I still have bad days, I can mostly take care of myself, my child, and a good chunk of my other responsibilities.

I am grateful God has seen fit to grant me a (so far!) easier pregnancy than I had dared hope for.

Couples: take courage

As much as I wanted to wait as long as possible (read: through the Resurrection) to get pregnant again, I felt God pushing me in another direction.

At risk of sounding dramatic and revealing my life as charmed, I think I can say this is the biggest test of faith I’ve ever faced.

If you’re married and wondering if it’s time to start (or continue) having kids, first and foremost I declare: it’s between you, your spouse, and the Lord.

But you’re here, so I assume that means you want my two cents.

I suggest that, as a society, we would do well to consider the choice to have children as more than just a personal choice; instead, I propose we also consider this process a holy council. This council includes coming with questions to the Lord and being ready to listen to His advice. May we consider our willingness to “[yield] to the enticings of the Holy Spirit.” (Mosiah 3:19)

Yielding to what we hear from the Holy Ghost might feel uncomfortable, disappointing, or scary—especially when the counsel we hear does not align with our desires. I’ve been there. Hearing stories of faith have lent me courage in making this decision.

Stories of faith and courage

This story and subsequent guidance from Elder Rasband lends me courage, and may bolster your faith if you are in a similar trial of faith. One of their newly-married children once approached them and asked the following question:

“Is it still safe and wise to bring children into this seemingly wicked and frightening world we live in?”

Elder Rasband continues:

“Now, that was an important question for a mom and dad to consider with their dear married children. We could hear the fear in their voices and feel the fear in their hearts. Our answer to them was a firm ‘Yes, it’s more than OK,’ as we shared fundamental gospel teachings and our own heartfelt impressions and life experiences. …

“Take heart, brothers and sisters. Yes, we live in perilous times, but as we stay on the covenant path, we need not fear. I bless you that as you do so, you will not be troubled by the times in which we live or the troubles that come your way. I bless you to choose to stand in holy places and be not moved. I bless you to believe in the promises of Jesus Christ, that He lives and that He is watching over us, caring for us and standing by us. In the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen.”

Elder Rasband, October 2019 general conference

In his talk from the last general conference, “The Personal Journey of a Child of God”, Elder Andersen presents stories from multiple brave people of faith. I heard this talk while I was still dealing with the full force of my “morning” sickness without much aid. 

I felt an instant connection with the sweet Laing family, who had their own challenging experiences with childbearing but still had four children! Even though they were content to be done having children, they listened to the Spirit telling them they weren’t done. They had not one but two more children.

What an inspiration to families who think they cannot possibly have another child.

(Even though I had already chosen to follow the Lord’s council and was already pregnant, they still inspired me to continue working on this piece. I’ve been working on it for three months now.)

This all said, I don’t know if God will ask me or if I will have the faith to have another kid after this. I’m happy to not know for now—so please don’t ask!

Aside: a word about appropriate boundaries

In my experience, when you get married, most people want to know when you’re going to have a child. A good number of them are bold enough to ask.

Please don’t ask. They may volunteer the information if they so desire.

I pretty much expected this when I got married.

What I didn’t expect was that practically as soon as I came home with my first baby, people also wanted to know when I was going to have another child, and an even bigger number of them were bold enough to ask.

Please don’t ask. They may volunteer the information if they so desire.

I was surprised and a little hurt by this experience—especially considering the hellish pregnancy and traumatizing birth and postpartum experience I had just escaped.

I tried to bite back mean-spirited retorts and play it off, saying something honest but conversation-ending, like, “Oh, I think we’re ready to start working on adoption once we’ve got the money.”

Family: a matter of faith

I know for a lot of people, childbearing and baby-tending are deep, strong desires. Many women describe “baby hunger,” a phrase I neither particularly like nor relate to.

Don’t get me wrong; I love my baby girl. I enjoy being around kids. I just haven’t personally experienced a personal desire to have babies. Instead, the experience of embracing motherhood has, for me, been a largely faith-driven process.

For this second baby, I had exactly zero personal desire to get pregnant again.

But I know God too well to not listen when He guides.

I know that He always takes me in the right direction. It’s almost never the fun or easy direction, but I can always look back and know it was right.

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.”

Proverbs 3:5

May we not neglect to exercise faith in this critical part of life’s journey, having children. Certainly, God grants us agency and, often, the peace of knowing that our choice is a good one; however, in making this decision, we must have faith.

I have faith in personal revelation, in my experiences following the Lord’s commands, and in His holy scriptures—which teach over and over again that having children is both a commandment and a blessing to the righteous. (Gen 1:28, Ps 127:3)

I don’t understand perfectly now, but I have faith that God’s plan for me as a mother is central to who I am and must become.

With my imperfect knowledge and incomplete testimony, I testify of God’s love for you, of the compassion of His commands, and of the reality that He always keeps His promises. I testify that He loves families. I testify that He does not call perfect people to be perfect parents and that He understands that it will be a sacrifice. I testify that He will not lead you astray in this or any decision.

In the name of our everlasting Lord, Jesus Christ, amen.

Additional study

Your experience

If you have children, what has been your experience in making that decision? No matter who you are, what are your experiences in following God’s counsel? Comment below.

No Calling vs. Hard Calling: Message to Those Wanting More (or Less!) Calling

A year and a half.

That’s how long I went without a calling.

For much of this time, I felt unneeded, unwanted, and out of place. I so much desired to share and to serve, but I thought God didn’t want to use me.

If I’m being honest, it really all turned out for the best; for much of that time, I was deathly ill while pregnant, then recovering through a long and awful postpartum journey. Now I see that I would have been of little service to anyone and God actually knew what He was doing. (Shocker, I know.)

More than anything, I think He taught me that His work doesn’t always look the way we think it will.

To my foolishness, however, I still prayed and hoped for a chance to have a “real” calling!

Right as I finished up the bulk of my postpartum journey, my husband graduated from college, we moved away, and we began attending a Spanish ward.

A couple months ago, and just a few months after moving in, I was called to serve as the president of the Young Women.

Yikes.

When I told a friend about how overwhelmed I felt, she smiled and said, “You said you wanted a calling!”

She was right. I asked for it.

And God likes to give us what we ask for!

Whatsoever ye ask the Father in my name it shall be given unto you, that is expedient for you;

Doctrine & Covenants 88:64

From the last couple years, I have some takeaways for people in either of these circumstances:

  • People with no calling. (I will also include people who have a calling that they feel doesn’t meet their desire to share, grow, and learn.)
  • People who’ve been called to a calling that seems overwhelming or impossible. (If this hasn’t happened to you yet, it probably will soon.)

Let’s get into it.

An aside: If you don’t know what the word “calling” means, no worries. In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, almost every member of the Church has or will at some point receive a calling. They are special volunteer jobs or assignments to which a person is called by God to do a certain task, such as to teach Sunday school classes or to play the piano. Typically, the bishop (leader) of the ward (congregation) prays to know who to ask to take a certain calling, gets an answer from the Lord, then privately asks that member to receive the calling. If they accept, they will receive a special blessing, called a setting apart, to have divine assistance in fulfilling the calling.

Part 1: Not enough calling

You might think I’m crazy, but while I didn’t have a calling, I desperately prayed for one. For a year and a half, God didn’t give me one; instead, He taught me a couple lessons. Here are the cheat codes so you don’t have to take as long as I did figuring this out. You’re welcome.

Magnify your assignment

While bishops are encouraged to give every member a calling if possible, Relief Society and Elders’ Quorum presidencies must give every adult member of the Church a ministering assignment. Even youth should now have assignments as well. (If you do not yet have one, talk with your Elder’s Quorum or Relief Society presidency.)

After some time of bitter feelings every time I heard the phrase “magnify your calling” (Magnify Your Calling, Gordon B. Hinckley), I felt the Lord tell me something else:

I can magnify my assignment!

I started to truly understand how to lift where I stood and to magnify and even enjoy my assignment as a ministering sister. (To learn more about that story and how to get started ministering, visit Ministering Despite Anxiety: How to Start Ministering.)

I encourage you to study the doctrine of ministering like the Savior does as you try to follow Him in ministering to those to whom you are assigned. Surely, at least one will need your help—and perhaps you will need them, too.

My husband and I received another assignment as well, a short-term assignment to facilitate a self-reliance class for the stake, “Find a Better Job.” We worked together to get to know our group; we felt that we were able to love and serve them as they did the same for us. It was much more of a spiritually-strengthening and even joyful experience than I had anticipated.

Plus, because of the principles we were practicing, my husband used the strategies each week to land several job interviews and eventually a good job to begin upon graduation just a few weeks later.

Another assignment we did get and that you might get is to speak in church. Although I have social anxiety, I find speaking in church a very enjoyable experience, at least for the week leading up to it while I focus my study deeply in just one area of the gospel.

It’s possible that you won’t receive another assignment besides ministering. Either way, you can rejoice in your assignment and prove to the Lord that you will take this job seriously to bring Him glory.

You don’t need a calling or assignment in order to serve God

These words from Jesus Christ, along with prayer and the Holy Spirit, changed my outlook entirely:

“For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.

“Verily I say, men [and women] should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;

“For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.

“But he [or she] that doeth not anything until he is commanded, and receiveth a commandment with doubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned.”

Doctrine & Covenants 58:26–29

Did you hear that?

We can’t wait around until God tells us exactly how we are supposed to do His work. You don’t need a specific calling to do the work!

But you still want one, you say?

Well guess what?

You also get your own calling!

The Lord says:

“…if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work;”

Doctrine & Covenants 4:3

Boom! There you go! If you want to serve God, you have a calling.

(If you don’t want to serve God, I don’t really know why you’re reading this, but I’m happy you’re here! I recommend studying His Word and praying to understand His love for you and why you should want to serve Him.)

But what is “the work” you are called to?

Don’t let the vagueness of the phrase overwhelm you. According to the Come, Follow Me Manual for Young Women and Aaronic Priesthood, the work is defined as such:

“God invites all to come unto Christ and assist in His work by 1) living the gospel of Jesus Christ, 2) caring for those in need, 3) inviting all to receive the gospel, and 4) uniting families for eternity.” (numbers added)

The good news: This is kind of a choose-your-own-adventure moment! You have four main areas to choose from, and you can get more specific from there.

The other (but also harder) good news: You’re going to have to do some extra practice learning how to receive personal revelation. (A great resource to help you out is this talk from our prophet.)

Think about which of those 4 areas most speak to you right now. Try to choose just one or two areas and/or ideas. As you consider what to pursue, you might want to think about devoting more time to the Lord in scripture study or identifying your little missions. (We Should All Be Gospel Scholars…, On Little Missions…)

Take your choices to the Lord. Pray to know His will for you. He will either encourage you to continue in your chosen calling, or He will help you make another choice.

Make a plan for how you will fulfill your calling. Choose how and when you will achieve your own goals.

For me, this blog became my new calling. With it, I increased my daily scripture study time and intention and filled my Sunday hours with learning and sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

All Things Have Their Seasons

Just because you don’t have a calling now doesn’t mean you won’t in the future. Just because you have a busy calling today doesn’t mean you will tomorrow.

God knows what we’re ready for. I quickly learned that being pregnant and recovering from childbirth was a full-time job for me, the way it affected my mind and body. (The Truth About Pregnancy) It was not a time for other people in the ward to depend on me.

Pray to understand His timing and His will for you and your life. It is rarely what we expect or hope for, but it is what is best for us.

Part 2: Too much calling

If you think your calling is overwhelming, I’m right there with you.

The Lord called you and will help you

Here I am, a person who hadn’t had a “real” calling for a year and a half, assigned a very time-consuming calling that, to me, seemed very difficult. I’m supposed to be a leader to all the young women in the ward, but I barely have more than 5 years of adulthood under my belt myself! I hadn’t attended a family ward or been around young women since my mission—if that really even counts.

It also seemed to have come at a terrible time, too. My business was picking up, I had just gotten a promotion at the nonprofit I volunteer at, and my nanny had just quit. (Plus, I was just starting to bring life to my dreams with Spack Chats, and this calling was going to take up most of my Sunday blogging/podcasting time!… Don’t worry y’all, we’re still going. 😉 )

My calling feels very difficult a lot of the time. I feel very inadequate, unqualified, and unsure of what to do. I’ve already messed up more than once. I stress myself out about all the things to remember and do.

The funny thing is, though, that I also know that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. I know God put me here.

I’ve felt it as my husband has given me blessings of counsel, in which I’ve heard the Lord’s assurance and confidence. I’ve felt it as I’ve prayed to know whom to call to help me lead the Young Women; in a ward where I knew nearly no one, names on the ward list jumped out and lingered in my mind. I’ve felt it as I’ve gotten to have experiences with the youth and the leaders as we’ve had and shared critical spiritual experiences together.

I testify that God is doing a “marvelous work,” and He enlists us to help Him. Callings are one major way we help in His work. If we accept His call to “embark in the service of God,” He will strengthen us: (Doctrine & Covenants 4:1, 2)

“…for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.” (Doctrine & Covenants 84:88)

If you accept the call to do His work, the Lord will not leave you alone. He will be with you every step of the way, and He will make possible and successful what seems daunting and difficult.

Have some faith

Some people turn callings down. In fact, it’s a dirty little secret that many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints turn down many or all callings or inform their bishop that they will only take a select list of callings.

This is shameful.

We are members of Jesus Christ’s Church! We have promised to follow Him wherever He asks us to go. We have promised to serve Him.

The exceptions

That being said, there are times when a calling recipient may need to let the bishop know about very special circumstances (for instance, health concerns that would restrict calling fulfillment, or moving away soon). If you think this may be the case, you should counsel with your bishop. You may both need to go home, pray about it, and listen for an answer before coming to a decision.

If you tell a bishop new information that makes them decide to call someone else, it doesn’t necessarily mean that that calling was incorrect or not inspired. In fact, if you present new information to the bishop that leads him to choose someone else for the calling, God probably led him to your name so that he would find out that important information.

I felt prompted to choose a certain woman from the ward list to serve as a Young Women leader, but when the bishopric reached out to her to extend the calling, they found out that she had moved. I firmly feel that I was led to her name so that the bishopric would find out about her new situation and be able to get her support in her new ward.

Don’t be ashamed if any of these situations have happened to you.

The rule

But before you get too excited, remember: everyone has special circumstances. You aren’t unique in having limitations.

The bishop probably won’t know about everything going on in your life or about all of your limitations—but the Lord will. It is between you and the Lord to determine if your special circumstances are such that you cannot accept a calling.

Each person who is asked to receive a calling has a responsibility to pray to the Lord for confirmation that this calling is truly for them. Whether you feel apprehensive about taking the calling at first or if you accept immediately, it will serve you well to have a personal witness and testimony that the calling has come straight from the Lord.

I am concerned that we, as a whole, as members of the Church, more often turn down a calling for reasons of personal preference, fear, or pride instead of special circumstances.

Where is our faith?

We are God’s chosen people, saved for these latter days! But each of us gets to decide what we will do personally.

Will we be like Nephi? Who accepted the Lord’s call to build a boat, even though we had no tools or knowledge to do so? (1 Nephi 18)

Will we be like Joseph? Called to be a prophet, even though he had never seen one before or had any real training or abilities? (Joseph Smith History)

Or are we like the young rich man? Called to sell all that He had to follow Jesus, after keeping the commandments his whole life, but did not accept the call? (Matthew 19)

No matter your calling: drop the pride, catch the vision

You are more than the calling you do or don’t have. We mustn’t let our pride get in the way of doing God’s work.

If you turn down a calling because you don’t want it, you’re putting your pride before your discipleship to Jesus Christ.

If you only do your calling halfheartedly or to the bare minimum because you don’t think it’s an “important” calling, you’re allowing your pride to get in the way of your own growth and the blessing of others.

If you are proud of how “important” your calling is, your pride is getting in the way of doing Christ’s work out of love, which will hurt yourself and those around you.

Catch the vision. Your calling (or lack thereof) is about so much more than yourself.

It’s about all the people around you and bringing about the salvation and exaltation of our brothers and sisters.

It’s about the Lord Jesus Christ, honoring and following him back to our Heavenly Parents.

Join the chat

What situation are you in, with Church callings? What encouragement or advice would you add to others?

Tell us in the comments below—or tell us in our new community on MeWe, “Doctrinal Discussions for Christian Women (LDS)“.

We Should All Be Gospel Scholars + How to Build a Scripture Study Plan for 2021

God has big plans and great intentions for each member of His Church.

In this Church, we are promised more blessings than we can find anywhere else; it is only natural that it is also a Church where we are asked to do much. This is definitely not an only-on-Sundays Church or something you can just do. Being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ means taking on a challenging lifestyle and struggling to allow Christ to make us into new beings.

Sometimes, it feels like He asks a lot of us!

We’re supposed to keep a strict health regimen, stay virgins until we’re married, and even give up 10% of our income.

We’re supposed to go to church on Sundays, take time on whatever calling we’re given, attend the temple regularly, watch 8-10 hours of general conference twice a year, and hold family home evening activities every week.

Despite all of these things, it’s that scripture study that gets really overwhelming for me.

We are supposed to, at minimum:

We have also been invited to:

  • Study general conference talks throughout the year.
  • Study about the promises to the house of Israel.
  • Read everything about the Savior and that the Savior said in all the standard works.
  • Review the proclamations from the Church.
  • Read Saints.
  • Read the Bible.
  • Read your patriarchal blessing.
  • Read any additional readings assigned by your youth leaders, relief society/elders’ quorum leaders, bishopric, or stake leaders.
  • Read any additional content as prompted by the Spirit.

This is a freak ton of reading.

How on earth can any one person living a normal life possibly read all of these things!?

Don’t panic: We don’t have to do all of these things at once.

There may be days or seasons in your life when you can only hang on by that minimum few verses a day in the Book of Mormon.

But before you take a total sigh of relief, what I’m about to say is probably not easy to hear. It wasn’t for me, when I heard it for the first time from the Lord:

God wants us to become scholars of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

He doesn’t need us to have every verse memorized or be ready to Bible bash to prove a point in an argument.

He needs us to know this content deeply so that it changes us.

Catch the vision

Knowledge is power, and God wishes to grant His power in full force upon His people.

“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the power of the Lamb of God, that it descended upon the saints of the church of the Lamb, and upon the covenant people of the Lord, who were scattered upon all the face of the earth; and they were armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory.”

1 Nephi 14:14

I remember a mentor once saying something to the effect of the following: “Oh, of course [Sister]’s Relief Society lesson was great. She is such a gospel scholar. She just understands the scriptures so well. I’ll never be able to know the gospel as well as her.”

She continued, “When I read the scriptures, it usually just goes over my head. I’ve read the Book of Mormon lots of times, but I don’t know if I know it really well. And I just haven’t read the Bible so much either.”

I was surprised and saddened by the idea. This mentor had been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ for more than 40 years, her whole life!

Granted, I’m sure my mentor was talking down her knowledge and abilities in an excess of humility. I’m sure she knows a lot more than she gives herself credit for.

The conversation led me to conduct some introspective evaluation and intent prayer. How well should I know the scriptures? How should I be studying the Word of the Lord?

I felt the Lord answer my prayer, and I started to catch the vision:

We are supposed to be as fully immersed in the doctrine and teachings of Jesus Christ as much as our lives permit—and if our lives don’t make much room for those things, we probably need to reevaluate our lives and make changes, sometimes big changes.

As a Church, I feel that we have begun to move toward the vision with the introduction of Come, Follow Me, but let’s take it further than the bare minimum.

Can you see what that would look like if we all tried to maximize our time in studying the scriptures?

Do you see the vision of the stay-at-home parent listening to general conference talks instead of podcasts while they clean? Do you see the young man or young woman picking up their phone to read the Bible instead of open Snapchat when they’re bored? Do you see the empty nester reading the Liahona as they eat instead of watching television?

I confess I am not anywhere near this vision right now. I need your help to achieve it.

Help me see what it looks like. I need your example to know how to become a gospel scholar.

Why become a gospel scholar?

There will always be people who know more than us in some areas, or even all areas, of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Becoming a gospel scholar is not the main goal, however. (Conversion Is Our Goal,” Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families)

Rather, I believe it is a state of increasing knowledge that highly correlates with becoming the most righteous and faithful follower of Jesus Christ we can become in this life—and will eventually become in the next life.

Granted, there are some who may become very righteous and faithful followers of Jesus Christ in spite of little access to the written words of Christ and His prophets. Such a disciple will also increase in knowledge about Christ, but most likely at a much slower rate and with greater exertion, because they will need to learn more strictly through personal revelation from God.

Thankfully, in this era, we have been blessed with much easier access to God’s word. The Gospel Library app includes an immense amount of information to learn from.

Of course, along with this access to existing scripture, we are also to employ prayer and seek personal revelation from the Lord, but we have a much quicker path to knowledge. Most of the time for most people, the Spirit only gives confirmation or denial, yes or no answers. To learn truth, it is extremely helpful to come to the Lord with something to confirm, rather than ask for specific detail.

This is not because of God’s unwillingness to give more complex answers, as He is eager to answer us; rather, I feel that it has more to do with our limited capacity to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit, which is a skill that comes gradually with frequent practice.

How to start becoming a gospel scholar

Becoming a gospel scholar doesn’t have to mean that you don’t do anything besides recite scripture and read the Joseph Smith Papers all day.

You can still have other hobbies, watch television, and do personal activities.

But hear me out: I suggest a couple two things we need to stop ruling out entirely.

a) Don’t rule out cutting back on hobbies or television—or even cutting them out of your life, if prompted by the Spirit, and

b) Don’t rule out having a 1-, 2-, or 3-hour scripture study.

We usually talk about scripture studies over 30 minutes (or even over 10 minutes) as unreasonable, unrealistic, or only for old people who live alone.

But why? We should be maximizing our time with the Lord, and I believe nearly all of us have the time and energy to increase our time in the Word of the Lord if we make room and listen to the Spirit.

We live in a paradoxical world; we are time-poor, but we spend more time on entertainment than ever before. Think about the amount of time we spend consuming media. Muster the courage to look at your Screen Time data. Think about your yearly report from Spotify and the number of hours you spent listening to music or podcasts. Look through your Netflix history.

Now think about how long your scripture study usually is.

Can you replace even a fraction of that time with listening to general conference talks or reading the scriptures?

I know girls (and grown women) who have planned on their future spouse being their spiritual rock because he will have served a mission and had 2 years of 2+ hours of scripture study a day.

But what if she became her own spiritual rock? What if she decided to dedicate 2 hours (or even just 1 hour) to daily scripture study and come to know the Lord on her own?

Imagine if we all took the personal responsibility to become a gospel scholar!

Do you see the vision? Do you see what kind of a people the Lord is raising up in these last days?

Everyone a gospel scholar? Is this reasonable?

“…it is not reasonable that such a being as a Christ shall come…”

Foolish people speaking in Helaman 16:18

For most members of the Church, I believe that becoming a gospel scholar can be a reasonable goal—at least, increasing our time with and commitment to the scriptures is something attainable and necessary. I concede that most people don’t need to spend several hours a day fully immersed in the scriptures.

For me, my best scripture studies happen after 45-60 minutes of reading, praying, and writing, and they end with the Spirit telling me what I should do now with the rest of my day to live what I learned. I usually fill in my planner with things I am personally prompted to do: fulfill my Church calling, plan extra time for work, reach out to an old friend, practice music, or just to schedule a walk with my husband and baby. Personally, when I start passing 60 minutes of study, usually I begin to feel inspired to put down my scriptures and “go and do.”

I believe the Lord needs us to give Him some of our time to work with. He has big plans for us, but if we don’t give Him the time of day, we limit what He can do (while still respecting our agency).

No, you might not be able to live a “normal” life if you spend more time studying, pondering, and praying over the scriptures. You might need to get up earlier or cut out some activities from your life to be able to devote this increased time to the Lord.

But we aren’t called to be normal by the world’s standards. We are called to be a “peculiar people.” (1 Peter 2:9)

So how do we choose how long to spend in the scriptures?

You should, as guided by the Spirit, maximize your time in the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Building a balanced schedule of scripture study

I believe in choosing a schedule and a study plan, but also being ready to change it as needed and prompted by the Spirit.

If you’re like me, you might feel a little overwhelmed by the idea of maintaining the great study we practiced last year in the Book of Mormon while adding on the study of the Doctrine & Covenants, as outlined in the Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families manual.

You should pray to know how you need to go about this! Here are some ideas, however:

Book of MormonDoctrine & CovenantsAdditional Study
Individual • Read quickly (e.g., 5-10 pages/day)
Read slowly (e.g., 1 chapter/week)
Find and record all blessings promised to the House of Israel
Ponderize a verse/day
Read all the cross references as you go along
Write down one thing you learned/day in your CFM manual
Find and record all blessings promised to the House of Israel
Listen to/watch talks as you drive, clean, etc.
Read Saints like a novel
Study a topic/week across Gospel Library
Study your patriarchal blessing weekly
Memorize the proclamations
Read the Old or New Testament from the beginning
Family Read a few verses together/day
Share verses and why you like them in a group chat
Read and discuss a chapter together on Sundays
Read a few verses together/day
Choose and share a story from the D&C, its context, and message family home evening
Read and discuss a whole section together on Sundays
Teach family home evening lessons about a topic/week from For the Strength of Youth
Sing and memorize hymns as a family
Memorize the Articles of Faith with your kids
Use the Circles app to share spiritual videos and thoughts
Watch and discuss talks together as a family/week

Feel free to choose one or more of these suggestions to start building your 2021 scripture study plan, or just use these ideas to inspire you to think of your own choices.

Remember, you don’t have to pick something from every intersection. I recommend using what’s called the “step-up” method.

Think about what you are doing right now. If you are struggling to do any scripture study whatsoever, I recommend just starting by choosing one square to get you started (ideally from the Book of Mormon column). If you are doing personal scripture study but struggle to do family study, try to choose an item from the individual row and from the family row.

Or, if you’re really rocking your studies, pray to decide if you’re ready to up the challenge and pick something from 4, 5, or even 6 of these areas.

The bottom line: Don’t bite off more than you can chew, and don’t think you need to pick something from every single one of these squares.

Start smaller, then come back for more when you’re ready.

As always, pray and ask for discernment and guidance to know exactly how God wants you to choose to learn His Word. I am confident He will help you become the gospel scholar He wants you to become. Remember these words from Nephi:

“…[the Holy Ghost] will show unto you all things what ye should do.”

2 Nephi 32:9

Ask for His help in choosing your scripture study plan, and incorporate prayer in each of your study sessions. In this same chapter of the Book of Mormon, Nephi continues:

“But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul.”

2 Nephi 32:9

I testify that He will help you achieve your goals—or, better yet, He will use your goals to make you the person He wants you to be, whether or not you perfectly achieve your goals.

Additional resources

Share with us

How will you balance your scripture study this year? What has worked for you in the past? How do you feel about becoming a gospel scholar?