Sad SAHM: You’re the Bishop! (poll)

by: Bishop Bill

May 26, 2012

A very faithful sister in your ward named Mary asks to speak with you after church. She enters your office and starts to tell you her story. She tells you that in 1987 she was a newly married 22 year old who wanted to be a nurse. She had always wanted to be a nurse since a very young age, and this was her life long dream.  She had just started the nursing program at the local collage.  But that year Pres. Benson gave a talk in a fireside for parents that was circulated around the church in which he asked women to leave the workplace and come home to their children.

Mary tells you about praying and fasting with her husband, and that they decided she would follow the prophet and not pursue a career in nursing but would be a stay at home mother.  Since that time she has had 3 wonderful children, but she always felt she missed something by not becoming a nurse.  Her consolation was that she had followed the prophet, and would be blessed.

Then this last week Mary was driving down one of the main roads in your city when she saw one of the new “I’m a Mormon” billboards very large and visible on the side of the road. On the sign was the photo of a woman dressed in a nurse’s uniform, with the words on the side saying: “I’m a mother of three, a nurse, and I’m a Mormon.”  Mary tells you she had to pull over, and she sat in the car and cried for 20 min.

She starts to cry as she asks you why the church is promoting women working outside the home.  She asks why are working women put up as an example of Mormon Women.

You're the bishop! What do you tell her? (Choose the answer you think best)

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40 Responses to Sad SAHM: You’re the Bishop! (poll)

  1. Stephen M (Ethesis) on May 26, 2012 at 5:32 PM

    This reminds me of when we got a letter from Salt Lake about not pestering general authorities for face time.

    Next fast & testimony we had someone get up and talk about a wonderful time they had dropping in on a GA and just enjoying him.

    There is a tension in things like that. I am reminded of.

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  2. Douglas on May 26, 2012 at 6:46 PM

    GAs can at times just be “dudes” and take time from their considerable duties and family matters and socialize, believe it or not. Still, we tend to have the “personality cult” thing which most of them seem to be uncomfortable with (they just have a job to do and want to get it done, likely they have to balance the demands of their full-time calling with their families like anyone else).
    It’s like a couple of times when travelling on business, though my employer strictly pays for coach, at times I’ve been either bumped up to first class or been given a frequent-flyer upgrade (by contract with GSA they have to treat Gov’t flyers like anyone else, so it’s not like any credits can credited back to the Treasury which would be my desire). So several times I’ve been seated next to a celebrity. I politely acknowledged my seat mate if we talk at all, but I make it a point to leave said celebs alone and not fawn other them. If they want to talk, then, ok, I’ll be sociable, but I don’t hero-worship. GAs I see in the same light. AFAIC, I hold the same Melchizedek Priesthood that they do, and that provides all the “awe” that I need.

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  3. Good Reason on May 26, 2012 at 8:47 PM

    We live in a church of shifting values. Whenever a church doctrine goes against prevailing social practice, the social practice eventually wins. Next time, it might be a good idea not to put aside your life goals based on the say-so of elderly conservative men who pull their ideas out of the air.

    I’m a terrible bishop.

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  4. Bonnie on May 27, 2012 at 1:36 AM

    THAT is why we exercise our agency and choose for ourselves rather than abdicating that choice to someone else’s suggestion. I believe there is great purpose and wisdom in prophetic counsel, but that does not relieve us of the obligation to search out our own testimony, make a choice, and live with the consequences. This woman needs an opportunity to actually choose, and I don’t think she did first time around. It’s not too late to truly find out for herself what she “should” do, and then decide whether or not it’s what she’ll “embrace” doing. We live with our choices. Nobody else will. Too often I think we choose obedience but look back and feel resentful of others who don’t and seem to “get away with” what we wouldn’t allow ourselves. That’s not choosing. Choose, or choose not, there is no blaming someone else, to wrest Yoda.

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  5. Lulu217 on May 27, 2012 at 2:02 AM

    Years ago I decided to just do the opposite of what GAs and prophets say.

    Hasn’t failed me yet.

    This story reminds me of an aunt of mine who bitterly broke down in tears about the counsel in the ’60s and ’70s to not use birth control and have as large a family as possible. She’s now severely debilitates because of giving birth to ten children in quick succession, and is highly resentful of the younger generation of women in the church.

    This is one reason I believe that the church can ultimately be harmful to those who take it seriously.

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  6. ji on May 27, 2012 at 9:20 AM

    I like no. 4, but will add one thought to that — maybe she DID make a choice back then — her choice, her decision. And she may indeed have had wonderful blessings because of her choice.

    Regardless, I agree that our leaders teach and encourage and counsel, and we decide and choose.

    We obey the Lord Jesus Christ. But every one else, including the Prophet Joseph Smith, teaches us principles and we govern ourselves.

    What does a bishop say to this woman? I don’t know. Maybe something like the past is the past. She needs to live today. Does she need to continue the same course? Change her course? Those discussions will best happen at home, rather than in the bishop’s office.

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  7. CatherineWO on May 27, 2012 at 12:04 PM

    She did not make that choice all those years ago of her own free will. I understand her sorrow and regret. I have been there. I think all a bishop could do at this point is validate her grief and encourage her to set new goals for herself, whether it is nursing or something else, and go for it. To really be supportive, the bishop may need to provide some counseling for the husband to help him be supportive of his wife.

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  8. Me on May 27, 2012 at 12:10 PM

    The answer choices don’t work — it only lets me select one.

    She and her husband felt that they got an answer to prayer then and followed that prompting. She is now a different stage in her life, her children are presumably no longer young children, and if she feels it’s time to pursue an opportunity in nursing, there is no better time than now to start praying about it and have a talk with her husband. Have fun on date night! Better go somewhere they don’t mind you taking your time at dinner.

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  9. Nick Literski on May 27, 2012 at 1:24 PM

    None of the above. I tell her that most of the “I’m a Mormon” ads are paid models who would be ostracized in the average LDS ward, and that the entire campaign was formulated as an effort to overcome the public perception of LDS as intolerant bigots in the wake of Mr. Monson’s Prop 8 crusade. Therefore, she need not think that the LDS church is holding up the woman on the billboard as an example by ANY means.

    Afterward, I get “disliked” and verbally assaulted by the likes of Will and Henry, for daring to tell the truth that gives them cognitive dissonance.

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  10. Sherry on May 27, 2012 at 6:34 PM

    None of the above for me too.I read this post this morning and had a difficult time not bawling my eyes out. After the passage of a few hours I’m ready to comment. I too was deepy affected by the same talk by Pres. Benson. I will say that my (x) husband and I took the talk to heart and I always stayed home with my nine children. But in hindsight and after a nasty divorce from x, that talk was the nail in my coffin of never being able to be anything but a mother. My sphere was in the home.period. and in doing church work. I too, could have been a great many things in my life, if only x would have allowed me to have an education. I begged so may times to be allowed to take classes. After we divorced, I did attend college and LOVED every second of it. Yet, at my age, a career is out of the picture. Truly the best years of my life were spent raising children, and I don’t regret that, but I could have done much more with my life, time and talents. I didn’t, all because of a prophet’s talk, that I now believe was outdated and just plain wrong. My life was damaged because of it and I no longer EVER blindly follow any church counsel. I deeply feel for this woman because I feel the same way. Sometimes the counsel we receive is not the best, even if it is from a prophet.

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  11. Douglas on May 27, 2012 at 8:20 PM

    #9 – Nick, your characterization of the “I’m a Mormon” ad participants as “paid models” is both insulting and demeaning. If in between whatever sordid things you engage in as a gay man you have time to bash the Church at you were once a member and exponent of, fine, but at least stick to the truth and not your slant.
    I failed in my previous post to even get germane to the OP, apologies. Yes, the sister did, in the end, make her choice, since her overriding desire was to “follow the Prophet” (implicitly following the Lord). Still, was a desire when she was young (age 22) to continue her studies as a nurse inconsistent with the Prophet’s counsel about prioritizing families? I don’t see why the two desires couldn’t be accomodated, it didn’t have to be then an “either or” choice. She had every right to cry, and even perhaps feel “robbed” for being counselled to put away ANY career ambitions in favor of motherhood. Were I in the position of being a bishop and asked about the motherhood versus career dilemma, I’d cite a fave ad of the Caterpillar Corporation and its slogan, “There aren’t always easy decisions, but there are intelligent choices.” Ergo, the desire for education and marketable skills on the part of the young sisters is a GOOD one and should NOT, IMHO, ever be discouraged. Reality is that it’s darned difficult to get by on one income, and also all too many marriages, even amongst the Saints wed in the Temple, do happen. I’d rather see a young woman work in having the desired number of children along with her education (if it hasn’t already been done first) even if the family isn’t “stairstep”, than have a woman, facing widowhood or divorce, with a gaggle of kids, little propsect of adequate support (if the husband/father is worthless, you can’t get blood out of a stone) and no marketable skills.

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  12. whizzbang on May 27, 2012 at 10:01 PM

    @10-I feel the same way about another issue and I am a guy- I feel completely screwed over by the Church and only in the past several years was told by other leaders what I should have done, which is what I wanted to do but my bishop was overbearing and a numbers game/stats guy so I was prevented.

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  13. […] need for indoctrination, the peace denial brings, and keeping the Sabbath Day holy. Valuable tips: be careful who you take advice from and (if you want to stop masturbating) pretend you’re normal. Mormonism can present special […]

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  14. Nick Literski on May 28, 2012 at 12:11 AM

    Poor, sad Henry. You’re so obsessed with homosexuality that now you’re chasing me around various threads to make your snide remarks and inuendos. I’m sure you use those same hands, and that same gift of expression in blessing the sick and other ceremonies with your “priesthood.” It must make you feel so very pure and righteous to make comments about what you imagine others do sexually!

    As for the paid models used in the “I’m a Mormon” ads, you’re quite welcome to demonstrate that they are real individuals, voluntarily presenting their true selves without direction, censorship, or compensation. I’ll be waiting for your evidence, and quite ready to admit it if I’m wrong.

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  15. Lulu217 on May 28, 2012 at 1:05 AM

    FWIW, I personally know the woman in the billboard creatures on this page.

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  16. Lulu217 on May 28, 2012 at 1:06 AM

    Featured! Not creatures! LOL.

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  17. jks on May 28, 2012 at 2:08 AM

    I have a lot of sympathy for this woman. But I have to point out that President Hinckley obviously gave his OK for her to be a nurse in his talk in 2001:

    “I was in the hospital the other day for a few hours. I became acquainted with my very cheerful and expert nurse. She is the kind of woman of whom you girls could dream. When she was young she decided she wished to be a nurse. She received the necessary education to qualify for the highest rank in the field. She worked at her vocation and became expert at it. She decided she wanted to serve a mission and did so. She married. She has three children. She works now as little or as much as she wishes. There is such a demand for people with her skills that she can do almost anything she pleases. She serves in the Church. She has a good marriage. She has a good life. She is the kind of woman of whom you might dream as you look to the future.”

    So did she think about it in 2001? Perhaps she did or she didn’t because her family was demanding all of her time and energy and she no longer had the dream. It could be she doesn’t actually have that dream anymore but isn’t sure what her next dream should be.
    Perhaps this sad SAHM has a lot of things going on and she is having some midlife crisis regret. She is 47 years old, her children are perhaps almost all grown up and she isn’t sure about her life and her purpose right now. Part of the difficulty of being a SAHM is this exact thing. You have to find a new normal as your children age out. Most women eventually find solutions to these problems, but it might take some time. Many women have to return to work due to finances so they push themselves to make a decision about it.

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  18. Bob on May 28, 2012 at 3:42 AM

    Both you and Pres. Hinlely worked your story around that this SAHM found a way to have kids and then some job__but be such make to it home in time to make dinner.
    My wife was an RN. Mostly worked full time fot 30 years, because that’s what she wanted to do. We loving raised kids__ but that was done by working arould to our of personal dreams.

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  19. Bookslinger on May 28, 2012 at 2:20 PM

    I would say all of the above (the survey options), plus I’d throw in a few more:

    1. The eternal consequences of our choices are not evident yet, neither for this sister or the billboard nurse. There are even consequences, or effects, one or two generations out that wont’t be fully seen until the next life. So I would say to her to reserve judgement of herself and the other sister, and especially not to jump to any conclusion that she took a lesser path.

    2. The billboard said she was a mother of three, but did it say “wife” or show her husband? Maybe she had to work.

    3. Rules and exceptions. This sister chose to follow the general rule and not be an exception like the billboard nurse. That’s fine. Here are a couple quotes on rules and exceptions:

    Elder Russell M. Nelson, Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. CES Fireside for Young Adults, February 6, 2005. Brigham Young University

    “Through the years you will note that apostles and prophets teach the rule. We don’t teach exceptions to the rule. Exceptions are left to individual agency and accountability. The Lord knows we live in an imperfect world. He knows it is ‘ripening in iniquity’ (D&C 18:6). His judgments will be fair, just, and merciful.”

    Elder Oaks explained the same principle in a talk given May 1, 2005, at a CES broadcast, and reprinted in the June 2006 Ensign.

    “The explanation I gave that man is the same explanation I give to you if you feel you are an exception to what I have said. As a General Authority, I have the responsibility to preach general principles. When I do, I don’t try to define all the exceptions. There are exceptions to some rules. For example, we believe the commandment is not violated by killing pursuant to a lawful order in an armed conflict. But don’t ask me to give an opinion on your exception. I only teach the general rules. Whether an exception applies to you is your responsibility. You must work that out individually between you and the Lord.”

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  20. Bob on May 28, 2012 at 3:39 PM

    “. The eternal consequences of our choices are not evident…”.
    Hopefully, we can learn and grow by the mistakes we make. But the idea (and it is not just your’s), that we can’t have this ‘growth’,(or gain this understanding), until after we die, does not sound right to me.
    How can there be repentance, if we have not come to know we made a mistake?

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  21. MH on May 28, 2012 at 4:26 PM

    I think far too many people abdicate their personal free agency to the prophet, and then blame church leaders for their own choices. I think the Oaks and Nelson quotes are spot on. I’m afraid the “follow the prophet” mantra can be taken to extremes, and this is a perfect example.

    As others have said, maybe now is the time to fulfill the lifelong dream to become a nurse, and maybe Benson’s advice was great while children are young. Maybe she will find that after getting into nursing school, it isn’t what she bargained for, and maybe she will choose to major in English, or social work, or some other worthy endeavor too.

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  22. Bookslinger on May 28, 2012 at 5:50 PM

    Bob, #20, I think you went off on a tangent from the point I was trying to make about not realizing eternal consequences.

    We only have general ideas of the eternities at this point. Not specifics. If I had more time, I’d speculate about the possibility, looking back from the next life, the SAHM in question may indeed be glad she chose to stay at home, and the nurse, if she had had the option to stay at home and didn’t, may regret it. That was the direction I was trying to go in the sentence you quoted.

    Again, I’m not predicting either of those will come to pass, I’m just saying those are possibilities that I would put forth for consideration in hopes to console someone coming to me for counsel.

    I did not intend to imply that either choice of career vs stay-at-home was sinful or not, in case you thought that was my implication.

    Yes, we can repent and know we made mistakes in this life, but I did not mean to imply that EITHER the sahm or the nurse made a mistake, let alone that either sinned.

    I think this is not only a case of “good/better/best”, but also a case of what is “best” for one is not “best” for another.

    I think the OP, “what should/could the bishop say?”, is a situation where the bishop can only give *possibilities* for the person to consider, and then come to his/her own discovery and conclusion.

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  23. Glass Ceiling on May 28, 2012 at 8:17 PM

    This is a very difficult situation for the woman of whom we are speaking. No quick piece of advice will likely suffice. Maybe no advice at all will either. No judgment will. That is certain ; particularly “You made your bed, now lay in it” free agency rhetoric.

    These are the kind of issues that can lead a person to leave the Church. I know. I have my own regrets. And my testimony has to work around them on a near- daily basis. It is at times a real challenge to “go forward with faith ” when faith itself seems to have bit you deeply once or twice.

    Simply, this woman deserves a non-judging, listening ear…and the support she needs to finally be able to use her free agency, if she can.

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  24. NewlyHousewife on May 28, 2012 at 10:11 PM

    Personally, I’m grappling with the same issue at the moment so it’ll take me awhile to come up with a good response and figure out which answer I like best.

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  25. Bob on May 29, 2012 at 12:44 AM

    #22: Bookslinger,
    What I am saying, see needs some help with a plan for the here and NOW. Not be told to wait for the hereafter for answers. This is about her life now, not “The eternal consequences of our choices are not evident”.

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  26. ji on May 29, 2012 at 8:17 AM

    Bob, She doesn’t need to be told anything — she needs to reflect and ponder and decide. If anyone does tell her anything, she should take it in for reflection and pondering, not as an answer. She needs to learn correct principles so she can govern herself. If she needs emotional support, likely that will come better from home and her own social network rather than her bishop’s office.

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  27. NewlyHousewife on May 29, 2012 at 9:15 AM

    Ok, after some time I’m come up with an answer.

    This woman probably feels duped. A GA told her to stay at home. Since we’re told to follow the prophet, she did. Now she’s seeing people who didn’t follow the prophet being used in advertising as if they’re the ideal member.

    I would tell her she received blessings and opportunities not available to a working mom by staying home with her kids, and that lady received different blessings and opportunities not available to a full-time homemaker. If she feels prompted to go to school she should do so and I would be willing to talk to her husband to make sure he was supportive. In the meantime she should not feel betrayed because her circumstances were different than the woman on the billboard. She did what was best for her family and her needs.

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  28. Bob on May 29, 2012 at 9:39 AM

    I agree with what you say except for ‘betrayed’.
    Trust is when your give someone or some group stewardship over your vulnerabilities, and then they act in ways disregarding their stewardship, is a betrayal of you.

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  29. NewlyHousewife on May 29, 2012 at 10:53 AM

    Bad word choice, thanks for catching it.

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  30. Paul on May 29, 2012 at 2:03 PM

    Bill, this is a great one.

    It would be a shame if this woman has carried this stone around in her heart since the late 1980s when President Benson spoke about mothers being home at the crossroads. My wife and I sat through that talk, too, and it prompted us to make some different decisions about my graduate education and my wife’s working.

    As a bishop, I would hope to express love and concern for the pain this sister feels. I would remind her that she (by her own account) received an answer to prayer 25 years ago, and that there were surely blessings for following that personal revelation. I’d invite her to share some of those blessings with me, if she felt comfortable doing so.

    I’d also point out that there have been many messages in the intervening years that have recognized that some moms have not stayed home — many out of necessity. And that since it’s likely her cicumstance has changed maybe it’s a good idea to explore entering the workforce now if she chooses to do that.

    Mostly I’d want to help her to realize that there’s little she can do to change the past, but that she has the oppotunity to shape her future, and that she can make the choices to shape her future as she would like to. I’d encourage her to continue to seek inspiration through prayer, and to counsel with her husband and family as she makes her choices.

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  31. postmormongirl on May 29, 2012 at 4:29 PM

    That is a heart-breaking story. I would say the single best thing that happened in my family was when my mother bucked conventions and went back to work — her salary was what pulled us out of poverty. She also set an example of attaining higher education that led to my siblings attending college (The oldest three never made it to college.)

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  32. Will on May 30, 2012 at 1:39 PM

    I would tell her that my experience is that you will never go wrong following the counsel of the Prophet. She did the right thing and has nothing to be ashamed of and she and her kids will be blessed for her decision.

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  33. Joel on May 30, 2012 at 8:42 PM

    I wouldn’t offer her any counsel. I would just listen and validate her feelings.

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  34. Karter on May 31, 2012 at 8:23 PM

    It’s hard for me to empathize too much. Work is just something most people do to provide for their families. The family is the true reward. I’d give up my career in a second to be able to stay home with my kids and have our needs provided for. And I’ve got what most people believe is a great career.

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  35. L-dG on June 1, 2012 at 6:45 AM

    She did the right thing and has nothing to be ashamed of and she and her kids will be blessed for her decision [emphasis mine].

    And that would be relevant if she felt shame as a result of her decision. I think is far more likely that she is feeling regret, which isn’t quite the same thing. She ordered a huge part of her life around the conviction of LDS leaders who taught (if not absolutely necessary) the divine will of the Lord was that women should not work outside the home, only to find that, meh, it turns out the Almighty didn’t really have a very strong opinion on the subject. So she made (what was to her) a significant, essential sacrifice that wasn’t really essential in deference to an eternal principle that wasn’t really eternal. I can imagine she’d be a bit upset.

    (I’ve often wondered about a similar scenario arising if the Church ever changes its policy with regard to gay people. What do you say to a faithfully celibate octogenarian? “So, you know those six decades of your life you spent in frequently-overwhelming loneliness punctuated by periods of profound despair that left you musing fondly on the possibility of stepping in front of a bus? Ummmmm… yeah, about that…”)

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  36. Will on June 1, 2012 at 7:54 AM

    “Afterward, I get “disliked” and verbally assaulted by the likes of Will and Henry, for daring to tell the truth that gives them cognitive dissonance”

    Give me your address, so I can send you some diapers and a bib..

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  37. Nick Literski on June 1, 2012 at 8:33 AM

    Will, while it’s certainly true that your comments are often poisonous enough to cause diarrhea and vomiting, I’ll pass on your kind offer.

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  38. Cowboy on June 1, 2012 at 8:58 AM

    This ones easy –

    I’d point this woman to the irony of her conflict resolution strategy that still has her seeking the input of disinterested male Priesthood holders. She clearly regrets the council given by Benson, so why seek the Bishop’s council. I’d say, it’s time to stop seeking the Church’s approval, pick yourself up by your own bootstraps and start taking charge of your life now, since…that’s all you can do now!

    Take this comment for instance:

    “I have a lot of sympathy for this woman. But I have to point out that President Hinckley obviously gave his OK for her to be a nurse in his talk in 2001:”

    That’s very kind of Hinckley to offer his approval, but who is Hinckley to me that I should require his approval?

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  39. CRW on June 4, 2012 at 8:37 PM

    I remember that talk vividly, as I was working full-time to put my husband through grad school when we decided to take our four kids to the fireside. I was also pregnant with #5 and Primary President. During Benson’s talk I felt like somebody had punched me in the stomach. What I learned is that I would listen to advice from the prophet and then decide what was best for my family. It was NOT to quit working. We’re still active in the church (and have been all along), but that experience sounded the death-knell for my child-like trust in and obedience to the words of the prophet.

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  40. Coco Bream on June 10, 2012 at 7:50 PM

    Miss Mary’s choices define the kind of person that she is. In this situation, either option she takes shows the kind of devotion she has to her passion/calling, but like all women who are torn in between priorities, she would have to sacrifice one to make way for the other.

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