by Robyn

Empowering Mary: A Paradigm Shift on the Nativity Story

December 18, 2017 in Mary, Robyn, Savior, Uncategorized by Robyn

We received this post from Carol Vezzani who contributed to our book the beautiful essay “My Angel in Gethsemane” in our Atonement chapter.  Carol also blogs at  I enjoyed this post because I love the idea of Mary being proactive and empowered about her birth.  Enjoy! –Robyn


Empowering Mary: A Paradigm Shift on the Nativity Story by Carol Vezzani

I’ve always felt at least a little uncomfortable with the common modern renditions of the conditions of Christ’s birth: Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem, poor and alone. They reach the one inn in town, Mary obviously ready to pop, if not already in labor, only to find it crowded and run by a grumpy and inhospitable innkeeper who gruffly forces them to leave. In despair and urgency, they take refuge in a stable among the animals and filth. Alone and in the most squalid of circumstances imaginable, the Christ child is born and laid in the manger where the cows and goats continue to nibble the hay out from under his head.

The entire basis for this account is these 4 verses from the Gospel of Luke, chapter 2–


4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judæa, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

5 To be taxed with Mary his aespoused wife, being great with child.

6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.


When you read what is there, there really is so little that is concretely declared about the circumstances. I have no problem with people inventing details to flesh out a story that is so important to so many. The problem I have is with those invented details being perpetuated and taught as truth down the generations.

It started with the innkeeper. Even as a child, I was uncomfortable with the birth story having an invented villain. No where in the Bible does it mention an innkeeper, and yet he consistently makes an appearance, turning the holy couple away out of selfishness and greed. My first childish thoughts were, “That is so unfair. No one knows that he was mean or selfish. Maybe he was nice. He even let them stay in his stable. What, should he have kicked out someone who was already there? He did the best he could.” It wasn’t until later that I realized–there may never even have been an innkeeper at all. And I think that’s the point. I can invent details that please myself, but I do not claim that is actually how things were, any more than the “traditional” details.

Some other thoughts are on the accommodations available to Mary and Joseph. The Joseph Smith Translation of the bible renders the word as “inns” rather than “inn,” and some research into the original Greek (on the internet–don’t judge) points out that the word translated as “inn” in this circumstance is not the same as that meaning a public house for travelers, but rather a guestroom in a private residence. This makes sense. Bethlehem is Joseph’s hometown. It seems only natural that he would have family to stay with. But, being a time when everyone came home, the houses were probably crowded.

Since having my own babies, I have connected more with Mary in this story. The more I thought about her, the more I felt offended on her behalf even more than on the innkeeper’s. Why should she be depicted as the simpering, whimpering, powerless victim? I personally think God would have picked a Mother for the Christ with a little more gumption than that. Having traveled to a different state in order to have a natural home birth, in the basement of a friend’s house where the rest of the family who owned the house went about their business upstairs, I know what it is like to have a baby far from home, in a busy house that doesn’t belong to you. And let me tell you, there could be plenty of “room” to live and eat and sleep at night and still “no room” to have a baby. And at this point my imagination started to run. I can only imagine Mary, coming on to her time, looking around that crowded house and thinking, “No. Way.” OK. Say she is demure and kindhearted. She won’t kick anyone else out of the house just for her, but still. She goes to Joseph.


Mary: There’s no room here. I can’t have my baby here.

Joseph: There’s no where else to go. The city is full.

Mary: I don’t know. Not here.

Joseph: Mary, there is no where else.

Mary: There has to be. Somewhere. I can’t be here with all these people.

Joseph: Where, Mary? Where? The entire city is full.

Mary: I will find a place!

Joseph: Where are you going to go? The barn?

Mary: Yes!


Her nesting instincts kick in and she starts cleaning.

OK, that’s the funny way it goes in my mind. Truthfully, there were probably many female relatives and a midwife or two there to anticipate her need for solitude, and clean for her. Nowhere says that Jesus was born on the first night they arrived. They had time to prepare for this journey. They would have planned time to prepare the circumstances for his birth.

Again, I emphasize that I am not claiming this is what happened. I am only saying that this narrative fits with the facts as laid out in the scriptures as well as any other does, and it feels a lot more respectful of the Holy Mother as a woman and a powerful daughter of God.

by Robyn

Did Mary Really Ride a Donkey to Bethlehem?

December 12, 2017 in Angels, Christmas, Jesus Christ, joy, Mary, Pregnancy, Robyn, Savior, Symbolism by Robyn


There are many beautiful works of art depicting Mary riding a donkey as Joseph led them to Bethlehem. I never questioned whether or not Mary rode a donkey on her journey with Joseph.  However, as I was researching the symbolism of Mary riding a donkey to Bethlehem and Christ riding a donkey as he entered Jerusalem in the Triumphal Entry, I realized that the scriptures don’t actually say that she did.  She could have. It is likely that she did given it was the popular mode of transportation for people of her day and circumstances.  But we really don’t know.

Nevertheless, it is interesting that it is commonly accepted. And so I wanted to delve into the symbolism of Christ riding the donkey into Jerusalem and what that may mean for our common belief that Mary rode upon a donkey too.   In Egypt the donkey is a symbol for the god of evil. In Hebrew writings the donkey or ass symbolized the devil, evil, harm or non-covenant people (Lost Language of Symbolism, 307-308).  What does the Son of God riding upon something that symbolized evil mean?




The answer is two fold in Christ riding upon the donkey/ass. First, it symbolized that He would overcome all evil even the devil himself. This He did with his sinless life though being sorely tempted by even Satan himself.  By riding into Jerusalem in this manner He foreshadows His triumph over physical and spiritual death and His ability to grant salvation.

Secondly, riding upon the ass represented that He was the God of the Jews and Gentiles, “Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also” (Romans 3:29).  In addition, the gospel was to be preached to the Gentiles as well as be “blessed and numbered among the house of Israel” (2 Nephi 10:18).  The word Gentile means “the nations.”  It designates people of non-Israelite lineage but also nations that are without the gospel (Bible Dictionary, 679).

He is the Lord to each one of us whether we know it or not.  Christ did not come for the saint but for the sinner.  He is your Savior whether or not you accept Him as such.  He loves you whether or not you love Him.  He waits for you even when you stray.  He is merciful and makes it possible for each one of us to receive His salvation in one way or another.  To Him we are numbered.  He knows us.

And so Mary riding upon the back of a donkey pregnant with the babe Jesus is a beautiful foreshadowing of what was to come. So whenever I see Mary riding upon the donkey I think of the power and triumph of Christ entering Jerusalem upon a donkey with the crowds of people throwing their clothes and palm fronds in His path honoring Him as a King proclaiming,

“Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest” (Matthew 21:9).

These beautiful words are similar to the refrain of heavenly hosts heralding the birth of Jesus,

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14).


In pondering these symbols a conversation with a dear friend of mine came to mind as we talked about her approaching birth.  She could feel the darkness surrounding her, trying to rob her of the joy that should accompany the birth of a child.  Knowing the challenges she had faced in the past I was reminded that she had overcome them.  The darkness did not beat her.  She had triumphed.  So if you find yourself pregnant or with a little one during this sacred time, or struggling in anyway, I hope you know that Christ will help you triumph over the evil.  It is not unusual to feel weighed down physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually as you overcome the evil of the world and choose to give the Gift of Life.  May you seek to be ever closer to Him and feel his love surround you as you bravely move forward to your “Bethlehem.”

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”  John 14:27


To read The Gift of Giving Life buy your copy at your local LDS bookstore, or buy it on Amazon, where we have it at holiday pricing right now!

by Robyn

Jesus, Once of Humble Birth

December 6, 2017 in Angels, Christmas, Doulas, home birth, hospital birth, Jesus Christ, Mary, Robyn, Uncategorized by Robyn


With Christmas approaching I have been pondering the concept of “humble birth.”  We speak of Christ’s birth as being under humble circumstances. In fact one popular hymn begins, “Jesus once of humble birth” (Jesus, Once of Humble Birth, Hymns, 196).  One of the primary’s songs describes his birth this way:

This is the stable, shelter so bare;

Cattle and oxen first welcomed him there.

This is the manger, sweet hay for a bed,
Waiting for Jesus to cradle his head.
(“The Nativity Song,”Primary Songbook, 52)

For Mary this experience had to be humbling, “Although Elohim must have lovingly observed the birth from a heavenly vantage point, even Mary’s extraordinary travail increased the irony. The tiring journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem when she was great with child, the exclusion from the inn, the natural anxiety of bearing a first child, and Mary’s isolation from her own family must have weighed heavily upon her soul” (Gary L. Bunker, “The Ultimate Paradox“). We do not know the exact circumstances of Christ’s birth but Martin Luther remarked,

No one noticed that in a strange place she had not the very least thing needful in childbirth. There she was without preparation: no light, no fire, in the dead of night, in thick darkness. . . . And now think what she could use for swaddling clothes—some garment she could spare, perhaps her veil. . . .

Think, . . . there was no one there to bathe the Baby. . . . The mother was herself midwife and the maid. (Roland Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther [New York: Mentor, 1950], p. 173). 

But Mary had accepted this fate when she said to the angel Gabriel, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.”  (Luke 1:38).

As I have pondered Mary’s willingness to accept the circumstances that came upon her, I can only respect her humility.  The Guide to Scriptures defines it as,”To make meek and teachable, or the condition of being meek and teachable. Humility includes recognizing our dependence upon God and desiring to submit to his will” (source). Humility is not cowering.  It is much more powerful than that. It is accessing the power of God through submission to Him.

So what does this mean for us?  Sometimes we are given circumstances with a pregnancy or birth (and life) that is not what we wanted.  Last May I was asked to give doula support for a hospital birth to a couple who had previously had all of their babies at home with the assistance of midwives.  This birth could not be at home this time for a valid medical reason.  It was difficult for the mother to choose a birth in the hospital but she did.  This was to me “humble birth.” They had to accept the challenges that this birth would bring under circumstances that they did not want.  They asked a lot of questions and made the best of their situation.  Their little baby is seven months old now and continues to grow healthy because his parents with meekness accepted the circumstance they were dealt.  Many couples humbly choose a homebirth after much reflection too.  Humble birth isn’t about where the act took place so much as it is about the attitude we take towards the event.  Do we reverence the divinity with which the gift of giving life was appointed? Do we seek God’s will throughout the process?  Are we partakers of humble birth? I love the Nativity story.  I can relate to Joseph Fielding Smith when he said,

There is no story quite as beautiful, or which can stir the soul of the humble quite to the depths, as this glorious story can of the birth of our Redeemer. No words that man may utter can embellish or improve or add to the eloquence of its humble simplicity. It never grows old no matter how often told, and the telling of it is by far too infrequent in the homes of men. Let us repeat this wondrous story (Teachings of Joseph Fielding Smith, 310-318).

I never tire of hearing the story of our Savior’s birth.  Last week our Primary children performed a humble version of the Nativity at our ward Christmas party. It was perfect in its simplicity. May you also rejoice in the humility of our Savior’s birth. Wishing you a Christmas season filled with love and light.

To read The Gift of Giving Life buy your copy at your local LDS bookstore, or buy it on Amazon, where we have it at holiday pricing right now!





Why Having a December Birthday is NOT a Bummer

December 19, 2014 in Christmas, Heather, Mary, Uncategorized by Heatherlady


A week before my first son was born I spent a very special afternoon with my Grandmother.  She is famous for making wonderful chocolates, especially carmel turtles. They are the best. It was getting near Christmas and I’d convinced her to let me help her make her Christmas chocolates. I went with the hope that I’d be able to learn how to make chocolates, but it turned out that she taught me something much more important.

It was a beautiful afternoon and were sitting at her kitchen table rolling the centers for the mints we were going to dip. My baby was due soon and I was complaining to her how bad I felt that my baby would probably have a birthday around Christmas time. “It is such a bummer,” I told her, “His birthday will always be eclipsed by Christmas and he’ll have to wait a whole year before he gets any presents again!” She listened to me and then smiled at me in a knowing way. My father, her fourth child, was born only a few days before Christmas. She told me about how she’d worried she’d be in the hospital on Christmas and prayed that he would come before then.  But then she looked at me with her deep, wise eyes and said, “But you know Heather, there is something really special about having a baby– especially a baby boy– at Christmas time.”

Those words really touched my heart, and that night as I snuggled into my bed and felt the little boy inside of me wiggle I thought about what my Grandmother meant.

I thought of Mary and of the precious baby boy that she carried inside of her. I wondered if she felt a lot of the same apprehension and fear that I did. If she ever doubted her ability to be a mother, or worried about her capacity to handle what would be placed on her shoulders. I wondered how she would have prepared to give birth and I imagined what it must have been like for her to become a mother. As I thought about her, I began to see what my Grandmother meant. There was something very special about having a baby at Christmas. I saw things in a way I never had before.

It was real.

Mary was a real woman, with real feelings and real Braxton-Hicks contractions, and Jesus was a real baby. A real baby who was delivered by His mother in the same way I was going to deliver mine. And that changed my whole perspective. I began to feel a deep kinship with Mary and rejoice that I would get to celebrate the birth of my baby at the same time as the world celebrated the birth of Mary’s son.


A week later, my little boy was born, and I felt love like I’d never felt it before. It made that Christmas the most special one of my whole life, one full of complete joy and awe. It turned my heart to my Savior Jesus Christ in way that is hard to describe, and taught me things deep in my heart.

I often hear people say that they feel bad for people with December birthday’s, especially if they are near Christmas. They lament the fact, much like I did at my Grandmother’s house, that their special day doesn’t get the attention it might have gotten at any other time of the year. If that is something that you have said, or felt, I hope that perhaps my Grandmother’s words can change the way you look at it, because it IS an incredible thing to give birth to a baby in December. To be heavy with child as you read about Mary traveling to Jerusalem, and holding your own newborn child in your arms as you read about Jesus being wrapped in swaddling clothes. It is a living demonstration of the Love of God.

I know that each year I celebrate my son’s birthday (we’ve done 7 of them now) I am reminded of how it felt to hold him in my arms for the first time, to feel the miracle and joy of birth and know that with God ALL things are possible.  And each year I reflect on Mary and Jesus, and know that it was real. That He really was born, and that God– the Creator of the World– came to Earth as a helpless baby. And there is NOTHING more incredible than that.

So if you are expecting a baby this Christmas season, don’t despair. There is so much more to Christmas that presents and parties.. and having a baby will remind you of that. God knows when your baby needs to be born, so trust that. There are incredible things to be learned from Christmas babies.

And if you have a birthday in December  I hope that my Grandmother’s words will help you remember that there is very something special about being born around Christmastime–  you are a tangible reminder to everyone of what the holiday is all about.

A celebration of Life. Your life. Jesus’s life. Eternal life.

So Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas!

by Robyn

A Gift for an Angel

December 9, 2014 in Angels, Birthdays, Christmas, Death, fasting, Grief, home birth, Jesus Christ, joy, Loss, Love, Mary, Robyn, Savior, Thoughts, Uncategorized by Robyn

December is special to me for many reasons.  Not only do I get to celebrate Christ’s birth, I get to celebrate my firstborn son’s birthday.  Kyle only spent two birthdays on earth with us before he died  but we still celebrate his birth every year.  If you have read “Birth in Remembrance of Him” in the Gift of Giving Life then you are familiar with his birth story.  His birth will always be very special to me.  He came just days before Christmas surprising us on a starry night.  No hospital, no midwife, just me, my husband and a newborn baby in a tiny little room.  I felt a special kinship with Mary, Joseph and the precious Baby Jesus.  I will always treasure that night.


The cutest angel on our tree.


How does one celebrate an angel birthday? I don’t think there is a right way to do it.    We started by releasing balloons for each year old he would be.  We each write a message on the balloon and release it into the sky.  As the years pass, the number of balloons has grown so we are looking to change things around a bit. We will likely continue to open a gift from Kyle.  It is usually a Christmas book or other classic children’s book.  We have also donated a book to our local library because Kyle loved books so much.

This year I decided to give Kyle a gift.  It was early because I gave it to him on Fast Sunday.  As I have blogged about before, I moved this past year.  In my old ward, I often shared my testimony.  It was not unusual for there to be lots of pauses which made it easier for me to get up. The new ward has a line waiting every fast Sunday so if you want to get up you have to get up early and get into the line up.  I also felt a little more nervous to get up in this new ward.  And there is always the challenge of keeping the toddler happy while you go wait your turn.  While she was distracted with the cute boys behind her I snuck to the stand and waited my turn.  And then the bonus, my four year old followed me.  I admit to feeling like my thoughts were scattered but what I do know is,

“Nevertheless, ye are blessed, for the testimony which ye have borne is recorded in heaven for the angels to look upon; and they rejoice over you, and your sins are forgiven you.” Doctrine and Covenants 62:3

My belief is that my angel, Kyle, will read it.  It is my gift to him.  And that is the glue that will bind us together forever as a family, Christ.  Our living testimonies of Him.  I also realized after finally getting up was that I could keep giving that gift to him.  So I have shared my testimony in my primary class, Family Home Evening, on my Facebook page, Instagram account and blog.  And now you get to hear it too.

I do know that Christ lives.  He is my Light.  He brings me hope as I seek repentance and forgiveness. He has the power to save.  He leads and guides His living church through a living prophet of God on the earth.  I know the Book of Mormon is the word of God as is the Bible.  My heart rejoices in their power.  I know that it is because of the Savior that my family can be together forever.  This is not wishful thinking.  This is eternal truth.  I bear witness to it.  In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Delivered {Book Review}

October 2, 2014 in Book reviews, Heather, Jesus Christ, Mary, Midwives, Uncategorized by Heatherlady


A few weeks ago I was contacted by J. L. Van Leuven and asked if I’d be interested in reviewing her new (and first) novel called “Delivered”. The novel is set in New Testament times and is a fictional account of the midwife who assisted Mary during the birth of Jesus Christ. On her blog J.L Van Leuven writes this about her book,

” I was taking a bath one evening when a story came into my mind. It was not just any ordinary story. It was a story of the midwife who delivered Jesus Christ. The story came into my mind with complete detail from the beginning to the end. It was all I could think about for days and days. I decided that I needed to write it out… There actually came a point when I was working on the book late at night after I had gotten off of work… I went to save the manuscript when I accidentally saved a blank document on top of my manuscript thus deleting the 171pages I had written so far. I sat looking at the screen feeling sick to my stomach. I wanted to quit right then and there. I do not have time for this I thought. I cannot possibly rewrite all of this. I felt a sense of peace come to me and I knew that it would be okay. I reluctantly began writing the manuscript again the very next day. It only took two more months to rewrite the deleted portion of the book and finish it completely…. I knew in the end that it was not of my own doing and that I could not take all the credit. This was a book of inspiration. I was guided through out the entire process which allowed it to come into being. I love this story and the characters that have come forth from it. I hope to tell the world this story. It is one that has never been told before. “

I was intrigued by her comments about her book and after reading was curious to know even more. So I emailed her and asked her to share more of her experiences writing this book. Here is what I asked:

I really loved your main character, Ada, and I am wondering if she was patterned off anyone you know or where the idea for her character came. 

 To answer the first question truthfully I must be open and honest.  I wrote Ada as I was guided to write her. I honestly never thought she would come out like she did. I knew the book would be a spiritual journey for the reader but never imagined to what extent until I had completed writing it. It was as though I put on a cloak allowing me to see the world as she would. I felt as though I could see and perceive things as she did and then I wrote the book from her perspective feeling every emotion as though I were her.  I knew her name would be Ada even from the first thought of her. I knew she was a very significant person with a very special story. After writing her story I was strengthened in ways known by my spirit only. It is hard to put into words the changes that can occur in ones soul. Somehow words do not do it justice.

On your blog you mention that the idea for this book came to you while you were taking a bath and that you saw the whole story from start to finish. I am curious to know more about that experience. Which parts of the book did you start out with and how did your writing process evolve? 

The story  of Ada came into my mind one evening in the first part of January. I was listening to the Hallelujah by the Cloverton group.  I actually had listened to this song before and loved it but never had a thought about Ada until this evening. As I listened to the words in the song. I pictured Ada as a young girl growing up in Bethlehem. I could see her life in my mind. I saw her fall in love. I saw what happened to her love and the pregnancy take place. I saw her lose her child in the way that I described in the book. At the end I knew that midwifery and birth would slowly start to heal her wounds in a way that is hard to explain to people outside of the birthing world. I also knew that she would carry a wound so deep and so painful that the only way for it to be healed was through Jesus Christ. Although not as an adult but even from infancy his greatness would heal her and she would understand her destiny and purpose in this life. She would see just who he was and it would cause her to remember who she was. It was through the actual birth she would be healed in the most complete and remarkable way. Which will happen to us all at some point but at times in our lives it is hard to comprehend the glory and magnitude of it all. That is the basic story that came into my mind. As I started to write I developed the plot and surrounding story from researching the Jewish archives and the history of Herod the great. It was amazing to me that the obstetric history of Miriamne II fit in so perfectly with my story. It fit so precisely that the event of Miriamne I was in fact the same year as the birth of Christ. It was amazing to me that the more I researched the more the story came to me and the pieces pulled together making for one amazing story. The story that came to me in the beginning was just of Ada and did not include everything else.

I was intrigued by your depiction of Mary and the experiences of her early life. You depicted her in a way I’d never thought of before and I enjoyed your perspective. Where did your ideas about Mary come from and what are your personal feelings about her? 

 Mary, wow what can I say about her. I have loved every story I have ever read about her in my entire life. I have always wondered about her. I have had several conversations with my mother about her. We have researched her. I have read several books depicting her in many different ways. I pulled from all of the knowledge I had of her and created her story again in the way that I was guided to write it. I knew that Mary would know who she was from a young age just as her son Jesus Christ did. I knew that God would have a close relationship with her and that angels would most likely surround her and minister to her from a young age. I had heard a story long ago about her purity. I remembered the story saying that her feet never touched the earth because of the promise her mother had made. The more I thought about this the more it made sense to me that the reason she was so pure is because they had gone to great lengths to keep her so. The idea of her becoming a temple maiden at a very young age and staying within the walls of the temple most of her life made sense to me. These are the reasons that she stayed so pure. She was protected and guided to be a part of the greatest work this world and the worlds beyond would ever know. Again I believe she was very aware of who she was and what role she was to play. She stood through it all with grace and strength from above even until the very end. As a mother myself I cannot even begin to imagine what strength and courage she had. My words fail me when I try to describe what I truly feel about her.

How does your faith influence your writing? What challenges and blessings did you experience as you wrote this book? 

 The book itself was a huge leap of faith for me. I have never been a writer and lack confidence in my writing. The impression for Ada’s story was so strong in my mind that I could not ignore it. So with reservations about my ability I began to write. I loved the story so much after I had finished it. When lost the 171pages I felt sick. I just stared at the blank screen unsure of how I should react. My first thought was that I do not have time for this. I am a full time mom, wife, and nurse. I prayed to know what I should do. A calming spirit came over me and I knew that I still needed to write the story. So with strength beyond myself I sat down the very next day and began to write the story again. I found two flaws in the accuracy of the original story and corrected my mistakes. I moved forward with faith in God’s guidance. I completed writing the story in just 3 months.  I looked back in wonder and amazement that I was able to do that. Even with all that said I still was very nervous to let the story go into the world to be judged of others. When you write something so personal it feels as though you have made yourself very vulnerable on a deep level. I was reassured by a scripture I read one morning in 2Nehpi 33:4. It talks about the spirit making my weakness strong through means of the spirit of God. I was comforted by this so much that it gave me the courage to continue and publish the book. I hope that this book will help cause others to believe, endure, and know that at the end of all the sacrifice lies eternal life.
Thank you Jessica for answering my questions! And here are my thoughts about it. I’ll give three likes and three critiques.

1. The first part of the book was a little slow and cumbersome for me. Mostly because I felt that it wasn’t very historically accurate. The lives and intereactions between characters seemed much too modern to be in New Testament times. For example, even though I thought the courtship of Ada and Asher was sweet (and romantic) it felt more like the type of experience that modern day 16-year-old would have if her parents arranged her marriage and not what a girl in the New Testament would have experienced.  It was nice that you felt like you could relate to the main character but it also diminished from the historical feeling of the book. There were also customs or practices that she mentioned in the book that weren’t very historically accurate and sometimes that was distracting to me. But in all fairness, she did a pretty good job and it didn’t detract from the main plot line or message  of the story.

2. The book is self published and there are some noticeable mistakes in the text and in the layout. The most noticeable ones were the time lapses that sometimes came to dramatically without any transition. There are a few places where the paragraph will end and then all of a sudden the next paragraph is three months or three years later. That was a bit confusing and it would have been better if she could have started them at the beginning of a chapter or put a marker in to signal a time change. The book feels self published (which isn’t a bad thing– TGOGL is self published too!) but it would be good to know that before you buy it so you know what to expect.

3. I think my last critique is probably a more personal one, but it bothered me that some of the birth stories in the book seemed written from a medical mindset of birth. For example, the midwife is always very involved in the births always checking for cervical dilation, coaching the woman when and how to push,  catching the baby herself instead of having the mother do it (except in the case of Mary), even using a birth stool so that women are in a more convenient positions for her to deliver the baby rather than for the main purpose of helping the mother. There were times when I felt you could have transplanted the same experience right into the modern day hospital (with a great midwife) and it would have been just about the same… which in all honesty may have been the case. We don’t really know how births went in New Testament times and it is probable that some of them were as “hands on” as this midwife was, but I tend to think that birth was probably more of mother-led experience back then instead of the more practitioner-led experience it is today. Mary’s birth was really the only one where the midwife really was just a witness, a support person to help if needed, but not one to direct or manage the birth. It felt the most like the type of  homebirths I have attended and wished that there would have been more of those type of experiences in the book.


1. I really loved the characters. The main character, Ada, is wonderful, likeable, intriguing and interesting. I also love it that the love of her life is named Asher (my son’s name) and that she is surrounded by a diverse group of interesting characters. Ada goes through some heart wrenching experiences in her life but even with all that sorrow the book is not depressing or sad. She focuses on how her faith supports her and carries her through to perform the mission she was called to do. I also love it how you see how the Lord prepared her for her mission from the time she was young, even though Jesus’s birth didn’t happen until she was much older.

2. I liked how the author portrayed the midwives as skilled and capable. In the book Ada and her mother (the local midwives) are seen as holy women who pray and wash before every birth and who develop their skills and practices. They use a wide variety of herbs, spices and oils and have tricks to help mothers in all sorts of situations. They handle everything from breeches, hemorrhages and premature babies and do it with skill. I like this because I think too often when we imagine birth in times past we just assume that women didn’t get any sort of quality treatment or care. I don’t think that was the case. I think that like the author illustrated in her book that there have always been women (and sometimes men) who developed great skill in assisting women in childbirth.  It was nice to see her portray midwifery in that positive light.

3. I loved the idea and message that this book sent… that God is aware of each of us and that he prepares us for our missions in life in ways that we don’t always understand. I also loved the idea of imagining what Mary’s birth experience would have been like. I wouldn’t have ever imagined it like it happened in the book, but I enjoyed the author’s perspective and ideas. The truth is that we don’t really know what happened and so anything is possible. I loved imagining.

The Bottom Line

I enjoyed this book, and at one point it was even hard for me to put it down to go to bed. I enjoyed the characters, the plot of the book, and the spiritual message. I had to remind myself sometimes to not get hung up on historical details because this is a NOVEL and the author can use her imagination and depict things any way she wanted. In the end I think she did a really wonderful job and very much enjoyed her perspective. It is an interesting, engaging and thought provoking story and is one that I think would make a perfect gift for anyone interested in midwifery and birth.

I also think it is one that anyone who has ever wondered what it would have been like to be at the birth of Jesus Christ would love… because she gives you just a glimpse of what– maybe– happened.

And I loved that.

You can buy “Delivered” by J. L. Van Leuven through Amazon.

Behold the Condescension of God!

December 20, 2013 in Christmas, Heather, Mary by Heatherlady

Mary and Jesus

“And the angel said unto me again: Look and behold the condescension of God!”  1 Nephi 11:26

My oldest son was born not long before Christmas. His birth was beautiful and has forever changed my feelings about Christmas. As I stared into his sweet, pure face that first Christmas day my heart was overflowing with gratitude to think that Jesus Christ, the creator of heaven and earth, the great “I Am”, came to earth as a humble baby.  The salvation of our souls and the fate of the world depended upon him, and yet he had enough trust in the  goodness of the  world– in the goodness of a woman — to come  down to earth….helpless, poor, and humble.

I can hardly wrap my mind around it.


Why would God come to earth as a baby? Why would he come to an unknown girl and her young husband? Why would he be born into poverty and anonymity when it was within his power to come with glory, might, and majesty? When all he had to do was speak and the earth was created.

Why then come as a baby?

This is a question I am still pondering over in my mind, yet the more I ponder on it the more I see that it was because of his incredible love for us.

He came to earth as one of us– as a helpless baby, a hungry toddler, an inquisitive child, as a son, a brother and a friend– to show us the beauty and divinity of our mortal experience. To teach us that these mortal bodies we inhabit are capable of much more than we ever dreamed of. That if we just come unto him all the weakness, sin, fatigue, suffering and pain we experience in our mortal bodies can be overcome and healed. He came to teach us that the relationships and interactions we have with one another matter– that they shape the very fabric of eternity– and that love is the most powerful force there is.

He came to teach us about love, because He is love.

And as this Christmas I again stare in to a new, little face from heaven my heart is filled with gratitude and immense love for the incredible condescension of our God.

There would be no love, no life with out Him.

And as your Christmas gift this year  I want to share this  beautiful song and video with you. I love how it depicts the mortality of Christ’s birth; Mary laboring and giving birth,  Joseph “catching” the baby, and the  look that passes between them as they lay their tiny baby to rest in the manger. It is a look I have shared with my husband after each of our children’s  births– a look of amazement and awe at the miracle of life. One can only imagine how much more they must have felt those feelings when they pondered on who their little baby really was.

by Robyn

Breastfeeding and Modesty

January 25, 2012 in Breastfeeding, Mary, Robyn, Savior, Uncategorized by Robyn

Artist: Reni, Guido, A.D. 1575-1642

Is Breastfeeding Modest?

First of all, I am not a lactation consultant or anything like that.  I have breastfed five babies and teach childbirth classes in which I cover breastfeeding basics.  But I’m not claiming any special knowledge on the topic.  Breastfeeding does carry a special importance to me.  It was a hot topic last week on our Facebook page due to the LDS Living breastfeeding in public poll.  There were a lot of different opinions on their website.  What I was struck with as I read comments was the need to support a woman no matter where she is in her breastfeeding experiences.

Did you know the LDS church is pro-breastfeeding?

The website includes information on the importance of breastfeeding which also stresses the need to nurse for at least 12 months.  The Latter-Day Woman Manual, Part B states, “Breast milk, especially during the days immediately following birth, is the best food for a baby. Rarely is a child unable to tolerate a mother’s milk.”

The Latter-Day Woman Manual, Part A offers even more information,

“Our Heavenly Father made the mother’s body so it could produce milk. This milk is made especially for human babies to drink. It is better for babies than milk from animals. The first fluid that comes from the mother’s breasts after a new baby is born is also important. It contains substances that help protect the baby from diseases for the first few months.

Sometimes for health reasons a mother cannot breast-feed her baby. Milk from cows or goats or prepared formulas can also be used, but the mother must take greater care to keep the milk sanitary. A mother should breast-feed her baby if she can. The mother’s diet influences how much milk she produces for the baby. A mother who eats enough good foods and drinks enough water can usually produce enough milk for her baby.

• Why do some mothers not breast-feed their babies? Why is the fluid that comes before milk good for babies? Besides nutrition and disease prevention for the baby, what are some other advantages of breast-feeding?” (167)

Given that breastfeeding is best for our babies we should not put any restrictions on the mother to provide this nourishment. Asking a nursing mother to leave or embarrassing her, might be the deal breaker for her to stop nursing.  In a religion where family is so highly valued and emphasized it would seem that breastfeeding should also be just as supported.

Becoming comfortable with breastfeeding, especially in public, has been a process for me.  I have been the mom who searched for the quiet corner, the mom who stayed where she was with a nursing cover and the mom who just nursed discreetly, no cover at all, standing in line at Disney World.  I feel like I have done it all.

Nursing discreetly in Disney World on a ride.

Looking back I asked myself why I felt so uncomfortable giving nourishment to my baby in public and I realized I was merely a product of the breastfeeding culture I grew up in.  Why do I blame culture?  I have lived in and visited other countries where breastfeeding did not carry a sexual stigma.  As a missionary in the Dominican Republic it was common for a mother to openly nurse her baby or toddler in front of us or the elders.  There was no such thing as discreet nursing.  It was open and no shame was attached to the act.

As I read through the scriptures I am struck by the fact that male prophets commonly chose images of pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and mothering to teach gospel principles.  Why did they use these images and symbols?  They were commonly witnessed and easily relatable.

Mary 1520 AD, Artist: Conti

If you are to look at art from past centuries, there are many images of mothers breastfeeding their babies without a special cover or without even being discreet.  In fact, Mary is often depicted openly nursing the baby Jesus not only as an infant but as a little boy.  Breasts were recognized for the physiological function of nourishing babies and were not considered dirty or immodest when used this way.  See this facebook page for some great examples:

Mary 15th Century

References to nursing in scriptures:

In fact, there are some wonderful pieces of art from Mormon history depicting women openly breastfeeding their babies in Sacrament meeting (without a cover) or sitting among mixed company.

LDS Sacrament Meeting 1871


Close up of one of the breastfeeding mothers in the art piece.

Read more about these this painting here:

Danish artist CCA Christensen 1900 “Mormon Handcart Company”

Read more about this painting here:

So when and how did this change?  My thoughts are that during WWII when mothers were asked to go back to work that meant putting their babies on formula.  I have talked with many elderly women who although they were not working were told their milk was too thin and they had to put their baby on formula.  Formula companies pushed their products on doctors who in turn pushed them on mothers. A lot of money is involved in formula feeding.  As a result, millions of mothers did not breastfeed and that meant millions of daughters and sons not seeing it as natural and normal.  What happens when the physiologic function of the breast is lost?  It is only seen as sexual. Do we owe in part the rampant nature of pornography to the absence of the physiology of the breast?  We are also reminded that,

“The scriptures often refer respectfully but plainly to the body and its parts… It is the world that makes the divinely created body an object of carnal lust. For example, it makes the female breasts primarily into sexual enticements, while the truth is that they were intended to nourish and comfort children… Teach your children that they will find joy in their bodies when they use them virtuously after the manner taught by Christ” (37, A Parent’s Guide, 1985).

Rixa Freeze, PhD, also posted some food for thought on the need for breastfeeding to be witnessed instead of hidden: And A Bee In Your Bonnet shared her thoughts in this post, “Modesty and Breastfeeding.”


Is breastfeeding in public (especially church) immodest?

I’m not going to try to determine that for you.  I have come to a place where I feel it is a personal decision.  We make a big deal out of modesty in the church.  I’m not saying modesty and discretion are not important.  I like what Gordon B. Hinckley had to say about modesty, “I am not asking you to be prudish. I am asking you to be virtuous, and I think there is a vast difference between the two” (New Era, November 2011).

What does it mean to be prudish?  From the Merriam –Webster online dictionary:

Prude – a person who is excessively or priggishly attentive to propriety or decorum; especially : a woman who shows or affects extreme modesty

And I had fun learning a new word:

Prig –  one who offends or irritates by observance of proprieties (as of speech or manners) in a pointed manner or to an obnoxious degree

I am not trying to point fingers about who is and is not a prude or a prig (those names make me giggle) but in my opinion a woman who is breastfeeding is every bit virtuous.

By Anne Marie Oborn 2002, LDS artist

The best guide for modesty I try to follow is this question, “Ask yourself, ‘Would I feel comfortable with my appearance if I were in the Lord’s presence?’” (For Strength of Youth).    Would I breastfeed in front of the Savior?  Absolutely.  No question. I can only imagine his heart breaking if I turned away my little one especially if it were time to partake of the Lord’s Sacrament.  Jesus did say “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14). Breastfeeding itself is symbolic of the Savior and His Living Water.  He would not want me to miss that sacred ordinance.  I need the bread and water each week just as my little one needs the “living water” I can provide to her.  With that in mind, I also do not like to miss out on the testimonies, talks, or lessons.  Why should the mother feeding with a bottle be accepted in class and not the breastfeeding mother?

With that in mind I recognize that because of our current culture it might distract someone if they knew I was breastfeeding in church meetings.  I don’t think they would even know unless they sat right next to me and really looked closely.  I also like to keep in mind that our sons and daughters need to see breastfeeding to accept it as normal and natural.  I would much rather my son saw me or other moms breastfeeding than be submitted to the sexual manner in which breasts are represented in the media.  But how many people would be offended by the breastfeeding mother but not by the scantily clad woman on the screen?  How many of our children commonly see plenty of cleavage but not the breastfeeding mother?

Sadly, I have felt more comfortable in the general public nursing than inside the church building because of comments I have heard from women, not men, about “that woman” nursing openly at a Relief Society Activity (no men were in attendance). I’m thankful that mother did not hear the comment but I did and I was new to nursing and it affected how I felt about nursing at a church meeting.

I have also searched the LDS handbook 2 online and have found no reference to breastfeeding at all.  There is nothing that says it should not happen within church meetings.  I do recognize that with some babies they have to get latched on in a quiet space or that the mother just feels more comfortable excusing herself (sometimes I am that woman).  Thank goodness for the mother’s lounge, if you prefer it, especially when breastfeeding is new to you or you have a baby that is easily distracted.  I do have to admit that the mother’s lounge can be very distracting too.  A mother needs to be where she feels safe and comfortable for let-down to occur.  I just support the breastfeeding mama, you go girl!

Just remember that if someone, with or without intent, says something to degrade you for breastfeeding your baby, they are only a product of their culture.  They “know not what they do.” It is our responsibility to speak up.  Whenever a moment like that arises, I say a quiet prayer in my heart that I will just the right things that they need to hear so they walk away with a better understanding of how the Lord values breastfeeding.

Looking back over my adventures through breastfeeding I am filled with a sense of gratitude for the people who helped me along the way.  Many times it was small and simple things that they did or did not do.  I appreciate not being criticized for nursing in a quiet corner, with a cover, or without a cover in the midst of crowds of people.  I’m sure along the way there were people who refrained from criticizing (or at least said it outside my earshot).  Nonetheless, I was not belittled for putting the needs of my baby first and for that I am grateful.

With all that said, please remember to not judge the bottle feeding mother.  She is a product of our breastfeeding culture and may have lacked the support needed or be the rare case that is unable to breastfeed.  Maybe she didn’t see enough moms breastfeeding to know it mattered.  Maybe she tried her heart out to make it work but it was not to be.

Please remember to leave comments that are in a spirit of love.  Support your sistas’!