by Lani

Ritual Rebirth in Ancient and Modern Practice

April 8, 2015 in Atonement, Baptism, Heavenly Mother, Jesus Christ, Lani, Old Testament Women, Priesthood, Rebirth, Rites of passage, Savior, Symbolism, Temple by Lani

I enjoyed so many beautiful moments in conference last weekend. Part of me wanted to write about Linda K. Burton’s beautiful talk. While listening to her words, my cheeks ran with tears as I was completely overcome by an overwhelming gratitude for the man who has stood by my side and held me up through so much pain and darkness. I also wanted to write about saints and sinners, enduring to the end, and Mother Teresa’s intense battle with darkness.

But this morning I felt impressed to write about something I’ve been wanting to write about for a long time, and I’m not really sure why it has taken me so long to get around to it. What I want to talk about touches on some statements made by a couple of speakers last weekend:

Nothing relative to our time on earth can be more important than physical birth and spiritual rebirth, the two prerequisites of eternal life. –D. Todd Christofferson

To inherit this glory, we need more than an unlocked gate; we must enter through this gate with a heart’s desire to be changed—a change so dramatic that the scriptures describe it as being “born again; yea, born of God.” –Dieter F. Uchtdorf

During my senior year at BYU (2002, holy cow that was thirteen years ago), I completed an internship as a managing editor for an on-campus student journal Studia Antiqua. The journal was the brain-child of Matthew Grey, who was a student and editor-in-chief, and was supervised by S. Kent Brown, director of Ancient Studies at BYU. As part of my “training,” Matt gave me copies of the journal’s first issue, published before I joined the team. I still have my copy of that issue and treasure it. Truthfully, I only really treasure the last article in the issue, containing information I wished I had known before I attended the Provo temple to receive my endowment the previous year. The article I’m referring to is called “Becoming as a Little Child: Elements of Ritual Rebirth in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity,” by our editor-in-chief, Matthew Grey, now known as Dr. Grey, assistant professor of ancient scripture at BYU.

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As D. Todd Christofferson reiterated in conference, God has commanded us to teach our children what it means to be reborn and all of the symbolism involved in it. Until I became acquainted with Matthew Grey’s Studia Antiqua article about ritual rebirth, I didn’t realize that baptism wasn’t the only rebirth ritual we participate in as members of the Church. In ancient Israel there were specific acts performed each time a child was born. Matthew Grey outlined these in his research. These include: 1) a washing with water, 2) an anointing with oil, 3) clothing in a garment, and 4) receiving a name.

Matthew Grey shared excerpts from Ezekiel 16, where the Lord spoke to the people of their original “birth” and the elements that were missing: “And as for thy nativity, in the day thou wast born thy navel was not cut, neither wast thou washed in water to supple thee; thou wast not salted at all, nor swaddled at all” (vs. 4). Then the Lord described how they had been “birthed” of Him through their covenants with Him and how He had provided the important birth rituals they originally lacked: “Then washed I thee with water; yea I thoroughly washed away thy blood from thee, and I anointed thee with oil. I clothed thee also with broidered work” (vs. 8-10).

The scriptures outline a similar ritual rebirth process for High Priests before entering the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement each year. At the door of the temple, a priest would be washed with water, anointed with oil, and clothed with sacred attire. This sacred attire included a cap/mitre, also translatable as “turban” (Mitsnepheth in the Hebrew) or “crown” as described by Myers in The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (see footnote 35 in Matthew Grey’s article). Following the washing, anointing, crowning and clothing, the priest was consecrated to the service of God with the the Divine Name inscribed on a plate of gold fitted on his head: “Holiness to the Lord” (Exodus 28:36-38).

Referring specifically to the anointing aspect of these rituals, Matthew Grey explains: “In most cases, the act of ritual anointing serves to empower or enable the person to do what he was made worthy to do through the washing. In its most common application, anointing with oil was used in the coronation of a king or in the consecration of a priest” (p. 68).

These words from an Ensign article (published two months before I was born) seem particularly pertinent: “In the temple men are prepared for their roles as kings and priests, and women are prepared to become queens and priestesses” (Carolyn J. Rasmus, “Mormon Women: A Convert’s Perspective“). President Joseph Fielding Smith stated, “It is within the privilege of the sisters of this Church to receive . . . authority and power as queens and priestesses” (Daughters in my Kingdom).

Nothing is more important than physical birth and spiritual rebirth Elder Christofferson told us. Our mothers have given us the gift of birth and our first naming. Christ gave us the gift of rebirth through baptism and offered us His name. We may experience other rebirths in our journey upward, but none is more sacred than the rebirth our Heavenly Parents offer to us: a rebirth as kings and queens, priests and priestesses, and the sacred naming given only to those who have overcome the world:

To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written , which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it (Revelation 2:17).

by Robyn

My Piece of Humble Pie

April 13, 2014 in Doulas, Gratitude, Robyn, Temple, Uncategorized by Robyn

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I was having one of those pity party days when you choose to just see everything in a negative light.  I kept making excuses for why I shouldn’t go to the temple but somehow we got there.  Not only was I in a bad mood, I was annoyed with myself for being in a bad mood.  After a very quiet 45 minute drive to our temple, we didn’t waste time getting inside.  We were on a tight schedule to be back in time for when the baby would be hungry again.

Just as I left the recommend booth, someone called my name.  It was a dear, sweet friend.  We had been through a lot together.  Years ago we had both buried a child within 3 months of each other and grieved their absence together.  I had not seen her for about a month.  I was surprised to see her in the temple because she was still rehabilitating after a serious car accident.  She had lost control of the left side of her body as a result of her injuries.  The last time I saw her she was still in the hospital.  I immediately felt humbled as she shuffled in with her walker. How hard was it really for me to get to the temple that day?  Not very.  My pride hit the floor and ran out the temple doors.
I quickly realized why I needed to be there that day.  I offered to help her get ready. I took her temple bag from her husband and promised to take good care of her.  This was an easy role for me to take.  I thought back to the times I had supported her as a doula* in two of her births and reminded her of that. I told her not to worry if she needed help changing.  She laughed, “Well, you have seen it all already, haven’t you?”  As she changed we reminisced about her births.  She had been in fits of laughter right into her transition of labor.  (The only woman I had ever supported to ever do that.) It was one of the things that endeared her to me that she was so joyful.  Today she was just grateful to be in the temple.  Full of joy that she could move the toes on her left foot.
I helped her change, go to the restroom, get her temple packet and find a seat.  It took a while.  She had to move much slower than usual.  I was so grateful for that.  I had been rushing, rushing, resisting the spirit.   She helped me slow down and find her rhythm, just like when I supported her in birth.  I felt like her temple doula.  It was such a privilege.  She apologized for inconveniencing me.  I was quick to tell her that there was nothing I would rather be doing right at that moment. And I meant it. After I helped seat her in the assembly hall next to her husband, I hugged her and thanked her for letting me help her.  I told her that I really needed that today and then rushed out.  Tears were stinging my eyes and I was so ashamed of my previous pity party.
I’m sure if I had not been there that day that one of the temple workers would have helped her and taken on the role of a “temple doula.” But I really needed to experience that.  We can be a “doula” for God’s children on both sides of the veil.  The truth is I felt like I was the one benefitting.  I did not end up having time to do the ordinances I had planned in the temple that day so I sat in the waiting area and studied my scriptures while my husband completed his.  These words graced the entrance:
“But the Lord is in his holy temple: Let all the earth keep silence before him.” Habakkuk 2:20
I sat there silent, asking forgiveness, and giving thanks for a small and simple moment in his holy temple.  The ordinance work we do there is every so critical but there are other kinds of service offered there too, like what my friend allowed me to do, and that is what my heart needed.
*Doula is a Greek word meaning female servant.  Today it is a term used to describe professional labor support, doing whatever is needed to support the mother through pregnancy, labor, birth and postpartum.
by Robyn

Inward and Outward Ordinances

January 31, 2014 in Menstruation, Parenting, Priesthood, Puberty, Rites of passage, Robyn, Symbolism, Temple, Uncategorized by Robyn

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Faith In God, My Gospel Standards, and The Gift of Giving Life

“That they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent”

John 17:3.

I was recently released from serving in Young Women. My new calling is to teach the Valiant 10/11 year old girls.  In addition to that I am also their Activity Day leader.  I have been studying the Faith in God program with new eyes, looking for ways in which it prepares a girl (or boy) to give life.

The entire purpose of the Faith in God program is that each girl and boy of the age of accountability is set on a path that will bring them to know God and Jesus Christ.

The program is split into four sections: “Learning and Living the Gospel,” “Serving Others,” “Developing Talents,” and “Preparing for Young Women or the Priesthood.”

All of the requirements are identical for a boy and girl until you reach the section on Preparing for Young Women or the Priesthood.  The choice of scriptures for these sections is not a coincidence:

For the soon to be Young Women: “Stand ye in holy places, and be not moved, until the day of the Lord come” D&C 87:8.

And for the soon to be Young Men: “The Priesthood of Aaron . . . is an appendage to the greater, or the Melchizedek Priesthood, and has power in administering outward ordinances” D&C 107:13-14.

Did anyone else catch the significance of comparing these two scriptures next to each other? These young priesthood holders administer in “outward ordinances,” which begs the question, what about the “inward ordinances?”  Inward ordinances happen inside a holy temple, in “holy places.”  There are the washings, anointings, endowments, and sealings we have all been taught about that take place in holy temple buildings.  But we are also told that our body is a temple.  If you have read Heather’s essay, “The Two Veils,” you are aware of some of these inward ordinances: intimacy, conception, pregnancy and birth.  I would add to that list, menstruation and lactation.  These girls are preparing to shed blood as did the Savior.  They are a holy place where ordinance work will take place beginning with menstruation and continuing through other the other inward ordinances.

As our girls become young women we must teach them the sacredness of their bodies and that they are places of holy ordinance work symbolizing the mission of our Savior. (Boys need to be taught their bodies are sacred too.  This could be a whole other post. I’m just concentrating on the role of girls preparing to be young women.) The point I am trying to make is that if we do not teach them what that means they will be confused as to why and how to express the power they hold within them.  Why be modest?  Why avoid harmful substances?  Why keep the Gospel Standards?

It is easy to misunderstand the importance of inward ordinances.  It is easier to understand outward ordinances and their significance because of their apparent visibility but that does not mean they are more important than inward ordinances.  The fact that inward ordinances are so misunderstood speaks to how sacred they truly are. 

As a girl becomes a woman she experiences changes in her body that are symbolic of the Savior’s life giving properties.  Hair begins to grow and is symbolic of life.  The curves she develops give her body the strength and shape to carry life within her and bring it into this world.  Hair begins to grow and is symbolic of life. Her breasts grow so that they may eventually be filled with living water to nourish her baby just as the Savior’s living water is meant to nourish us. Her body begins to ovulate and shed blood as did the Christ.  Whether inward or outward we should always, ask ourselves, “in what way does this ordinance testify of Christ and His Atonement?”

Each of the sections within the Faith in God program is preparatory to coming to know God and Jesus Christ.  In order to truly know God we become like our Heavenly Parents.  Part of that is reverencing inward ordinances.  We must help our boys and girls keep baptismal covenants, learn and live the gospel, serve others, develop talents, and prepare for more ordinance work in the young women and priesthood programs.

How do we help our boys and girls understand inward and outward ordinances?

  • Utilize A Parent’s Guide. It is a manual by the church for parents to help with teaching our children about their bodies and intimacy according to their understanding and age.
  • Participate in Faith in God.  Attend scouting or activity days.
  • Celebrate and teach them about the inward ordinances. Consider a coming of age party for your daughter as she nears puberty.
  • Put together a special binder/book of information for your daughter about the changes she will experience. 
  • Attend the new General Women’s Meetings with your daughters (or boys the General Priesthood Meeting with their fathers). It seems God has much in store for our girls and we must be ready to help them understand what is coming. Study both the Women’s and Priesthood sessions.  Teach your daughters and sons what was discussed at both.
  • Listen for those informal, spontaneous moments when you can talk about these topics and bear testimony of their significance.  Don’t have this conversation just once. Leave the lines of communication open for questions.
  • Go on “dates” with your child. They need not be extravagant, they just involve one on one time. 
  • Be aware of how you talk about your body, motherhood, and fatherhood, etc.  Our children tend to mirror our insecurities.

I have already been learning a great deal from these powerful girls who are on the cusp of becoming women.  They are smart.  I have to prepare for their lessons studying not only the primary manual but the adult Sunday school lesson as well.  Their questions are thoughtful and reflective.  I feel a great responsibility to give them what matters most.  I seek the spirit every week as I prepare to teach them.   

I would love to learn from you. What have you done to teach your children or primary kids the significance of inward and outward ordinances?

 

 

by Lani

Becoming Zion: Book Recommendations

January 17, 2014 in Book reviews, Divine nature, Intuition, Jesus Christ, joy, Lani, Motherhood, Music, Preparation, Savior, Temple, Zion by Lani

So I’ve been a bit obsessed of late with Zion. Can you feel the momentum like I can? Things are happening. We are being prepared for big things. Perhaps it’s wishful thinking on my part, but I feel in my gut that we and our children and grandchildren will build Zion, we will BE Zion. I want to get there as quickly as possible. I’m done with darkness and misery and suffering. I can’t wait for light, truth, love, peace, wholeness, and Christ in our midst!  During a recent trauma-release session with a therapist, I was asked to go to a “special place” in my mind. I chose to place myself in the center of Zion’s temple because there was no safer place I could imagine. It was awesome, at least in my imagination.

Maybe you’re as eager as I am? If so, here are some books you might love (if you haven’t read them yet)…

81pYSv-cBJL1) The Triumph of Zion: Our Personal Quest for the New Jerusalem, by John M. Pontius 

I started reading this book at the end of the summer last year (after reading another of his books, Visions of Glory). The vast amount of information contained in The Triumph of Zion made me overlook its minor flaws. I learned so much from this book about Zion, translation (the spiritual kind, not the language kind), the Second Coming, etc. There is a lot of repetition and rehashing of the same information, but I tried to see it as an intentional gift to really embed the information in my brain rather than as an editing mishap. If you want to better understand what needs to happen in order for Zion to be built, this is a great resource.

 

64982762) Light in the Wilderness: Explorations in the Spiritual Life, by M. Catherine Thomas

After two separate strong, wonderful, spiritual women recommended this book to me, I knew it was time. I think I have marked almost every single paragraph in the book with my red pencil and stars and circles and notes. This is one of my new all-time favorite books ever.

If you know Truman G. Madsen’s work, it may interest you to know that his review is quoted on the back cover of Light in the Wilderness: “This remarkable and penetrating book deals with some of the toughest spiritual issues of our time.” I discovered Truman G. Madsen as a teenager and devoured all the books my stepmom had by him. She later gifted them all to me, and I absolutely treasure them. In fact, Truman G. books were the only spiritual books I could stomach during my battle with anxiety/depression in 2012. He was the thread that kept me connected to God. I love him. Light in the Wilderness reminds me a lot of Madsen’s style.

M. Catherine Thomas is a convert, a mother of six, has a PhD in ancient history, taught at BYU and the Jerusalem Center, and has served four Spanish-speaking missions with her husband. I hope I can hear her speak someday. I love her! Some of my favorite quotes from the book:

“Everything in the Cosmos is playing music based on its particular configuration and vibration. The spheres are full of music. The elements of our physical world play the music given them by their Creator, but . . . we shall see that Man can choose to a degree the energy by which he will vibrate and the music that he will play” (p. 39).

“One day our former glories will be unveiled again; meanwhile, just the knowledge that we are full of unutterable wonders can light our way–yes, can cause us to question our current perceptions of reality and expand toward greater ones” (p. 64).

“But setting aside a human tendency to be gripped by fearful or miserable thoughts, we can quietly, deliberately, and deeply entertain the possibility of the opposite of what the thought is tempting us to believe. What might be a truer way of looking at this situation?” (p. 82).

“How important it is to realize that like is drawn to like: intelligence to intelligence, truth to truth, light to light (see D&C 88:40), but also anger to anger and pain to pain. We will draw to ourselves the sort of energy from unseen beings that we ourselves entertain” (p. 186).

I can’t wait to read this book again, and again, and again. It is like a manual for becoming pure in heart, becoming Zion.

 

97803408243753) The Mozart Effect, by Don Campbell

As I’ve written before, if there’s one thing I’ve learned about Zion’s builders/inhabitants it is this: they SING. Over and over and over the scriptures declare that Zion is home to those who sing “songs of everlasting joy.” I got a copy of The Mozart Effect for a few dollars at Goodwill last year and promptly started devouring it. I learned so much about the healing power of music and song from this book. It’s dated (making reference to cassette tapes, etc.) since it was written back in the 90’s, but the information is still as pertinent as ever. If you want to have a better understanding of why Zion’s inhabitants will spend so much time singing (and making music, I’m sure), this book is a great overview.

 

babyandhandxsm4) The Gift of Giving Life: Rediscovering the Divine Nature of Pregnancy and Birth

Ha ha! Really though. I have long felt that we were inspired to write our book when we did because it would play a part in preparing the mothers of Zion to birth and raise the most powerful spiritual army that has ever lived. You may have heard the phrase often quoted by birth advocates: “Peace on earth begins with birth.” I absolutely believe this is true. And Satan knows it too, which is why he has worked so hard to disempower women in their life-giving journeys from the very beginning of their journeys. If he can throw a wrench in a mother’s views about her body, about her own strength, her connection to her baby, her faith in her intuition from the very beginning, he’s gone a long way toward accomplishing his efforts to weaken families. But if we can strengthen a mother from the very beginning, if we can lift her and support her and help her discover her own power and intuition, we have made huge strides toward weakening Satan’s influence over that particular family. The Gift of Giving Life can strengthen the mothers of Zion, and the mothers of Zion will help usher in a millenia of peace. This army of peace is being unleashed upon the earth even as we speak, and it is growing. So exciting! If you haven’t read our book yet, we hope you will!

Do you have some other Zion-focused book recommendations?

Please share in the comments! 

by Lani

Birthing Hymns

October 2, 2013 in Atonement, Divine nature, Lani, Motherhood, Music, Savior, Symbolism, Temple, Zion by Lani

A couple of months ago, I was listening to the song “Come, Come, Ye Saints,” and I thought: this would be a great song for childbirth. Especially this line…

Come, come, ye saints, no toil or labor fear;
But with joy wend your way.
Though hard to you this journey may appear
Grace shall be as your day.

Then I got thinking about some of the other hymns and realized that so many of them could be seen through the lens of childbirth and take on new meaning. For instance,”work,” “toil,” “labor” and related words can be considered in terms of childbirth. “Temple” can refer to our bodies/wombs or the holy places where we choose to give birth to our babies. Here are some passages I found particularly meaningful as potential aids for women in childbirth.

Motherhood Rooted - by Alija Craycroft

Motherhood Rooted – by Alija Craycroft

As sisters in Zion, we’ll all work together;
The blessings of God on our labors we’ll seek.
We’ll build up his kingdom with earnest endeavor;
We’ll comfort the weary and strengthen the weak.
(As Sisters in Zion)

***

In many a temple the Saints will assemble
And labor as saviors of dear ones away.
Then happy reunion and sweetest communion
We’ll have with our friends in the beautiful day.
(The Day Dawn is Breaking)

***

How beautiful thy temples, Lord!
Each one a sacred shrine,
Where faithful Saints, with one accord,
Engage in work divine.
(How Beautiful Thy Temples, Lord)

***

From grim confusion’s awful depth
The wail of hosts, faith’s urgent plea:
Release our anguished, weary souls;
Swing wide, swing wide the gates, and set us free!
(How Long, O Lord Most Holy and True)

***

Holy temples on Mount Zion
In a lofty splendor shine,
Avenues to exaltation,
Symbols of a love divine.
(Holy Temples on Mount Zion)

***

Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid.
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by my righteous, upheld by my righteous,
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.
(How Firm a Foundation)

***

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It’s a Human Thing- by Amanda Greavette

Thus, all my toilsome way along
I sing aloud thy praises,
That men may hear the grateful song
My voice unwearied raises.
Be joyful in the Lord, my heart!
Both soul and body bear your part.
To him all praise and glory!
(Sing Praise to Him)

***

In mem’ry of the Crucified,
Our Father, we have met this hour.
May thy sweet Spirit here abide,
That all may feel its glowing pow’r.
(In Memory of the Crucified)

by Lani

Preparing Our Daughters

September 30, 2013 in Atonement, Birthdays, blessingway, Divine nature, Eve, Faith, Lani, Menstruation, Motherhood, Parenting, Preparation, Puberty, Rites of passage, Symbolism, Temple, Young Women by Lani

Last week I celebrated the 10th anniversary of my birth into motherhood. It kind of boggles my mind that I’ve been a mother for a decade. It also boggles my mind that this baby…

126_7693141899_4545_n…just had her 10th birthday. Double digits?!

For the past couple of years, I’ve been pondering what I want to do to help her prepare as she nears the milestone of menarche. Over the years I’ve taught her little by little (through casual conversations) about her body, her reproductive organs, how they work, what will happen when she starts to bleed, how babies are made, etc. Being the daughter of a birth junkie has its perks! She knows more about women’s bodies than most girls her age, I’d wager, and certainly more than I ever knew before I reached menarche.

I wrote a bit about my own journey into the world of menstruation and my hopes for my daughters in my post “Red and Powerful” HERE. I’ve known for a long time that I wanted my daughters’ experiences to be more positive than mine was. So a month or two ago I started creating a book for my daughter.

It’s not so much a book about periods or vaginas. It’s a book that I hope will prepare her to be an empowered and courageous young woman with profound respect for her body and the beautiful things her body can do.

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It includes seven rainbow-color-coded sections (coordinated with the seven chakras) with values I hope my daughters will develop. The values may sound familiar to some of you…

  • Integrity
  • Virtue
  • Individual Worth
  • Good Works
  • Choice & Accountability
  • Faith & Knowledge
  • Divine Nature (white) 

With each section, I have given my daughter a…

  • Value and color
  • Symbol
  • Scripture
  • Description/definition of what the value means to me
  • Song/Mantra
  • Positive “I” statement affirmations (printed from this site)
  • Woman from the scriptures who exemplified the value (most of the text taken from Heather’s blog)

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(For those who are familiar with the LDS Young Women Values, in most cases the colors, symbols, scriptures, and descriptions I’ve chosen are different from those used in the Young Women Personal Progress program. I won’t go into all the reasons I did this, but I think this book will help my daughter to become familiar with the values and prime her for the Young Women’s program.)

Interspersed I have also included some poems I wrote about Eve and menstruation. At the end of the book I included a revised version of my “Red and Powerful” essay, diagrams of the menstrual cycle, and a print-out explaining the various menstrual product options so she can start thinking about which type she wants to start with. In addition to the binder/book, I am giving her a c.d. with all of the songs/mantras for each value on it. And I made her a charm bracelet containing charms of each symbol and the coordinating colors.

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My plan is to sit down with my daughter and go through each section of the book together a bit at a time (over the next several months) so we can discuss the topics and so she can ask any questions she may have. I think it will be a special bonding time for us, and by the time we get to the end of the book, my hope is that she will feel confident and prepared to face the coming adolescent milestones with grace and joy. Maybe she’ll still be awkward, embarrassed, and moody. Maybe that’s inevitable? But a mom can hope for the best, right?

If you’d like to do something similar for your daughter(s), I’m happy to share what I put together. Let me know in a comment below, and I’ll email you my file(s) and sources so you can make it your own.

by Lani

First Blood

August 9, 2013 in Adversity, Atonement, Death, Divine nature, Eve, Fear, Fertility, Lani, Menstruation, Motherhood, Old Testament Women, Pain, Preparation, Puberty, Rites of passage, Savior, Symbolism, Temple, Young Women by Lani

Photo on 2013-04-08 at 20.30For the past couple of weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about preparing my oldest daughter for menstruation and puberty. She will be turning ten next month, so I know these milestones are quickly approaching us. This past week I started compiling a book I intend to give her for her birthday in September. I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning several nights ago, planning and writing. I can’t wait to share the book with her.

Included in her book will be some poetry. I’d like to share some of those short poems with you. “The Fall” and “Sacrifice” I wrote earlier this week. “Menarche” I wrote tonight. It was inspired, in part, by my visit to the temple today. I was able to see the new endowment film, and (as friends had told me I would) I loved the portrayal of Eve.

Dear First Parents, I honor you. Your courage is awe-inspiring.

 

The Fall
By Lani Axman

She fell from Eden-womb,
A sapling
From whom
All the temples on Earth
Would be built,
Their blueprints
Pulsing through her
Like songs
Waiting to be sung,
Whispered in the language
Of her Mother.

 

Woman in Red, by Dina Argov (Source)

Woman in Red, by Dina Argov (Source)

Menarche
By Lani Axman

When the first blood appeared,
Did you scream,
Fearing that you would surely die,
That the fruit had opened your eyes
Only to close them for good?
Or did a familiar whisper
Call to you,
Embrace you with
Love, made audible:
“Fear not, Eve,
For I bring you tidings of great joy:
The Mother of All Living
Has emerged.”

 

Sacrifice
By Lani Axman

Adam spills blood
On holy altars
Where lambs and doves
Bleed hope of reconciliation
Again and again.
And he waits.

Eve spills blood
From the temple
Of her womb,
Where life and death
Mingle in sacrifice
Again and again.
And she waits.

"Empty Nest," by Bethany DuVall (Source)

“Empty Nest,” by Bethany DuVall (Source)

by Robyn

Birth Symbolism and the Temple: a Visual Journey

June 7, 2013 in Breastfeeding, Robyn, Symbolism, Temple, Uncategorized by Robyn

 

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As I sat in the creation room of the Idaho Falls temple a few weeks ago, my mind turned to birth.  I pondered upon the different symbols within the accounts of the Creation, The Fall, and Plan of Salvation and how they relate to childbearing.  Heather’s essay, “The Two Veils,” (The Gift of Giving Life, 58) is a beautiful explanation of these truths.  I hope you will read that too if you have not already.  This post also has some thoughts about the temple and birth.  If you have been to the Idaho Falls temple (or other temple with like murals), you can visualize the different murals on the walls.

The Creation

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At conception the sacred body temple is entered and life is created.  This maybe a bit obvious at first that these two principles complement the other but that does not make it any less miraculous. The creation of our earth is a beautiful type and shadow of the gathering of matter unorganized to create life within the womb.  There are particular stages of development in both the Creation of the earth and the conception and gestation of a living soul.  The intricacies of conception and creation denote the existence of a God who is all-knowing and all-powerful.  As I read the account in Genesis I am reminded of the intelligences that needed to take form inside a empty womb, “And the earth was without form and void” (Genesis 1:2).  As the creation continues we are reminded that the introduction of light is an integral process.  I don’t know at what point we are given the light of Christ but we know that all who chose to come to this earth receive it.  In Genesis we are told “and darkness was upon the face of the deep.  And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.  And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.  And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divideth the light from the darkness” (Genesis 1:2-4).

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The Garden of Eden

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The Garden of Eden is indicative of the pure innocent babe inside the uterus receiving all of the nutrients without having to work.  In a state of paradise, the baby does not yet have any worries or anxieties.  They are completely taken care of by their own “tree of life,” (Genesis 2:9) the placenta.  They don’t have to cry for want or need.  It is automatically supplied to them.  Water is a key part of the creation process in Genesis, “And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.  And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so” (Genesis 2:6-7).  The waters that surround the baby preserve them in a perfect state for birth.  The amniotic fluid and placenta work together to protect baby before he or she enters the harsh world of briars and thorns.

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The Breath of Life

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At birth to accept this mortal world, the baby will have to take their “breath of life” (Genesis 2:7).  This moment in time is crucial and miraculous as the baby’s body adjusts on many levels to their new environment.  I’m sure at the time that Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden that their bodies had to make adjustments to survive in the harsh world of briars and thorns.  It is no accident that the Hebrew meaning of the name Eve is “life” or “life-giver.”  Eve had to give life to all the human race symbolically giving us our breath of life.

 

The Fall

 

At birth we enter into the telestial world or in other words, the world in which we now live.  With this world comes the need to work by the “sweat of [our] own brow” (Moses 5:1). We are commanded to multiply and replenish the earth.  We are also told that fulfilling this commandment will require effort on our part, “Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and they conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children” (Genesis 3:16).  The process of childbearing brings different types of sorrow even if a baby is never conceived.  Just ask the woman who desires greatly to get pregnant only to struggle with fertility.  In one way or another a woman experiences her “sorrow” or her Gethsemane that brings her to the Lord.  After being born the baby must now work for nourishment.  Breastfeeding takes effort to establish for mom and baby.  New infants are in a fallen world and stand in need of proper care, which they may or may not get.

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Kingdoms of Glory

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As we progress through this life from infant to child to adult we learn to take upon us covenants that teach us how to return to live with our Heavenly Father and our families in the celestial kingdom.  We choose to either live on a telestial, terrestrial, or celestial level.  We are each asked to symbolically come to the altar to make sacrifices for our the sake of building the Kingdom of God on the earth. Childbearing is just one of the sacrifices (a.k.a. blessings) that we make here on earth.  How we treat our families and honor the gift of giving life will be a part of what determines if we have lived worthy of the celestial kingdom.  God has said that we are “his work and glory” (Moses 1:39).  It makes sense that our families should also be our “work and glory.”

Ellis Family

For My Own Spiritual Growth

May 23, 2013 in Angels, Birth Stories, Book, Dads, Doulas, Dreams, Faith, Fear, Felice, home birth, Midwives, Personal Revelation, Prayer, Preparation, Temple by Progressive Prophetess

For My Own Spiritual Growth

By Nicole Cunningham

Something I used to frequently say regarding childbirth was that I was born in the last days because Heavenly Father knew I couldn’t handle a natural childbirth and knew I needed epidurals. It was something I would always joke about, but also really believed. I might be mentally strong, spiritually strong, but physically strong? No way. That was not for me. I wasn’t a hardy pioneer woman that pushed handcarts and gave birth along the Mormon trail. Heavenly Father knew me and knew my mental and physical limitations. Or so I thought.

My first son was induced ten days early due to cholestasis. I had an epidural, pushed for 3 hours due to his posterior position, and he was delivered via forceps. Overall, the experience was fine, despite the complications of everything, and I was grateful for my beautiful healthy, round-faced boy. My second son was also induced upon my request because I was tired of being pregnant and, to be honest, was nervous about going into labor naturally because I had never felt a non-pitocin contraction without the promise of a speedy epidural nearby. Something that touched me about the birth of my second son was when my sweet doctor said, “Reach down Nicole and pull out your son.” I had no idea I could participate in that way and hold him immediately on my chest for as long as I wanted! What a sweet experience that was.

Nine months before we conceived our third baby, I nonchalantly decided to watch The Business of Being Born. I knew that it would talk about all the risks of having an epidural and everything that goes with that, but I thought it might be interesting to watch. I enjoyed the documentary and found it informative but, quite honestly, I felt like it made home birth look terrible! Despite how I felt about the film, I could not shirk the feeling in the days that followed that my next baby should be born without an epidural or any other form of pain medications. I cannot tell you how hard I thought this was going to be for me! I tried to ignore the feeling, but I knew the Spirit was telling me all too clearly that this was what I needed to do. I cried every time I thought about it. I didn’t understand why Heavenly Father wanted me to do this. I was the woman who LOVES her epidurals–I was no pioneer.

I asked for my Heavenly Father’s guidance to help me not be afraid–that if I was really supposed to do this, I asked for Him to help me become as prepared as I could. I asked for His guidance every step of the way, through every decision. I would always find myself asking, “Why do you want me to do this?” “Is it for the health of my baby?” “Is something going to happen?” and every time, I would receive the same calming answer, “For your own spiritual growth.”

I soon found myself diving into everything I could learn about natural childbirth. A friend told me about hypnobirthing, water birth, and dear Ina May Gaskin. I continued to devour anything I could on birth. I was going to fill my brain with every morsel of natural birth knowledge that I could and let the Spirit guide. I took a hypnobirthing class at the hospital with my husband and then later ordered the Hypnobabies home-study course with a friend. I really wanted a water birth, but found out that the hospitals in my area wouldn’t allow them, so I started to look into home birth.

Deciding on a home birth was a very difficult decision–one that took so much study, pondering and prayer. We felt good about it and once we made the decision, we felt so much peace. A few days after we decided, my husband had a dream that the home birth was a peaceful experience and that everything went well. This all happened before I got pregnant, so when we finally did (9 months after the prompting), we were so excited! I could finally begin my journey!

Something that really bothered me was the feeling of being alone in what I was doing. Why was I learning all of this wonderful information, but couldn’t find any natural or home birth stories from LDS women? I felt like I was being grouped into the stereotype of the “typical” home birth mom like you see in the movies. I wanted to know about other mothers that shared my same beliefs and had also done home births. My friend sent me a link to Heather’s blog, Women in the Scriptures, and I devoured all of her posts on birth and the symbolism and spirituality that goes with it. I saw on her blog an icon for The Gift of Giving Life. I eagerly waited for the book to be published and for my copy to arrive. The day it came in the mail was like Christmas; I was yearning for the information and support inside.

Before I was married and preparing to go to the temple, I would do baptisms and while waiting in the chapel, read Elder Packer’s book, The Holy Temple. The entirety of that book was read inside the temple. For me, it was a wonderful way to prepare, and I looked at reading The Gift of Giving Life in the same way–a wonderful way to prepare for a sacred event. What an uplifting light it gave to my pregnancy! Whenever I was discouraged or nervous, I would read and then would feel such calm reassurance that everything would be fine. Armed with Hypnobabies, The Gift of Giving life, and supportive friends and family, I had such an amazing pregnancy. Everything was different compared to my last pregnancies–my outlook was more positive and that in turn helped physically. I felt so bonded to my baby, and so at peace. We found 2 great midwives who we felt so blessed to work with. Even though they were an hour and a half away, we still felt we made the right decision. I felt so uplifted, cared for and loved after every appointment with them.

871326072459264_a-4cf2abaa_m2OWUQ_pmMy baby’s guess birth date came and went and it was amazing how my perspective had changed compared to my other pregnancies. Every day “overdue” wasn’t an eternity of complaints and impatience, but just another day to prepare spiritually. I looked at approaching the birth of my sweet baby as a sacrament, an ordinance–something that I wanted to be spiritually worthy of. I wanted to be completely clean. With my other births, I looked at birth as merely a medical event that I had to go through, to get the end result. The spirit and love in our home was very tangible to us because of our preparation.

The night before Kate was born, I went upstairs to read in bed and write in my journal. I pondered about our upcoming home birth and wondered how it would all turn out and when it would come. I felt content to continue to be patient and was just enjoying the end of what to me was a simple but perfect day with my little family. My husband came up to the room and we talked a while about the birth and how excited we were and how crazy it was to not know when the baby would come (we were so used to planned inductions).

He left the bedroom to get some things together for his classes the next day, while I said my nightly prayers. I told my Father in Heaven that I hoped that I was ready for the baby to come, that I would have faith in my body and faith that everything would turn out fine. I expressed some concern about being a week over, but said I would leave it in His hands. I prayed for the health of my growing baby as usual, but for the first time prayed for my baby as a person, an adult spirit that was about to join our family. We didn’t know the gender but had feelings that we were having a girl. I tried to picture this beautiful spirit and what she was feeling as she was about to start her life on earth, in our family. A very beautiful feeling of love and peace came over me and a very powerful message of “Thank you” was communicated. I KNEW this was from the child that was about to join our family and it is an experience I will never forget.

The next morning, on August 7th, 2012 I woke up around 8:30. My boys had let me sleep in. I took a shower and felt great. I was planning to take them to the park and meet a friend. As I went into the kitchen to make some eggs for breakfast, I felt a little twinge that felt like a stomachache and decided on a bowl of Wheaties instead. I did some other things around the house and then got on the computer to check my email. I texted back and forth with my friend about our plans to go to the park, then felt that same twinge of discomfort. I decided that I just wanted to rest and told my friend I wasn’t going to be able to make it to the park.

It was around 10:30 at this time. I went upstairs and lay down, put on a hypnobabies track and tried to rest, but these “twinges” kept coming. Of course I had started labor and what I was feeling were pressure waves (contractions), but of course I was in denial. Around 10:45 they were very close together, probably 2 minutes apart, so I texted my husband and said that maybe after his next appointment he could come home to be with me. I did admit that maybe I was in labor, but that it would probably slow down or the contractions would go away. Within 5 minutes of texting him, they grew more intense and I told him to come home now! He was home a little after 11 and he got the boys to the neighbors.

By this time I was really feeling things, but not knowing how to handle the intensity. Nothing seemed to help, I just wanted to pace around the house and I’m sure I looked pretty funny. My husband got back around 11:40, called the midwives and our doula and then started filling up the birthing tub. I asked him what he was doing and he proceeded to tell me that we were having a baby and was filling up the tub for our water birth. Of course I was still in major denial and told him the water would get cold and that I still had a long way to go before the baby came. I still even thought that maybe the pressure waves would stop and it was just false labor. But he continued to get things ready and was able to help me calm down long enough to lie on the bed and get a blessing. The blessing was beautiful–that everything would work out fine, that my body would know what to do and that angels were present, helping us. I immediately thought of both my grandmothers and hoped they would be there.

Around this time it was 12:30 and I was turning into quite the moaning, laboring mama. But it felt so good to just go with what my body was telling me to do. Around 12:40 our doula, Shari showed up and I felt like I came out of my own little world of “labor land” to tell her that at that moment I was getting a break. She asked how long my breaks were and I said, “maybe 20 seconds.” I remember thinking how silly I must have seemed to Shari and my husband, moaning so loudly so early on in the labor, like I was ready to have a baby or something. I was also noticing that it felt good to push, but of course in my head that wasn’t because the baby was coming, it was just because it felt good. I said I wanted to go to the restroom, so Shari and my husband helped me into the bathroom. I said I felt like vomiting and Shari informed us that I was probably in transition. That was the first time it occurred to me that I was really in labor, let alone about to birth my baby! I said, “The baby’s coming!” and they helped me back to the bedroom to the birthing tub. I got in, pushed a few times, the bag of waters broke and a few minutes later Kate was born at 12:56.

Shari grabbed her out of the water and handed her to Aaron. Aaron checked and said our baby was a girl and we both started crying. She opened her sweet eyes and calmly looked at her Daddy. He handed her to me and she immediately started nursing. Our sweet 9 1/2 pound healthy baby girl had joined our family.

Yes, the midwives were still on the way. Yes, that sounds crazy and many ask us if we were scared or panicked that we had an “unassisted” birth. And the answer is no we weren’t. Never did fear enter me during any time during my labor. I was too busy birthing my baby! But it was more than that. We knew that this was what we were supposed to do. That one prompting more than a year before led to that moment, when we knew everything would be okay, and it was.

In the hours and days that followed, my husband and I talked about Kate’s birth and the amazing experience it was. We discussed that had we not prepared for a home birth, the situation would have been traumatic and treated as an emergency. We would have called 911, or I would have had Kate in a car, or my front yard, who knows!

Many people ask me if we will have home births with the rest of our babies. I hope so. But only if the Lord says it’s okay. While pondering and internalizing the fast 2 1/2 hour labor I had with Kate and why we needed to have a natural, home birth, the answer to why, was not because it ended up being a fast labor (though I am sure that is part of it). The answer is still the one that has been given to me time and time again—“for my own spiritual growth.” Heavenly Father knows what we need to be closer to Him, and He will give us those experiences that are needed for us to completely and wholly rely on Him.

This was my journey in becoming more in tune with the Spirit. I learned to know the will of the Lord in my own life like I never had before. Has this experience turned me into a natural childbirth advocate? Yes! I love all things birth. Has it turned me into an anti-hospital, never have an epidural mom? No. It has turned me into a “seeker of personal revelation” advocate. That is what is most important–to include the Lord in the decisions you make. Because no doctor, midwife, or expert alone, of any kind, can tell you what is best for you or your baby. Giving birth does not need to be fearful. We all can do hard things—with the Lord’s help. Ponder, pray, and seek for knowledge and the Lord, who is our greatest Advocate, will help us know His will.

Thank you wonderful sisters for being inspired to write The Gift of Giving Life. I have told everyone about this book. I will give copies to anyone with a soft heart to listen to its message. And I can’t wait for the day when I can give Kate my own copy—highlighted and weathered, for her own journey into divine motherhood.

by Robyn

Birth By the Numbers Part 1

January 16, 2013 in Atonement, Marriage, Pregnancy, Robyn, Savior, Sexual intimacy, Symbolism, Temple, Uncategorized by Robyn

Birth by the Numbers: A Study of Gospel Symbolism, Birth, and Numbers

One of my favorite videos to show in my childbirth classes is Birth by the Numbers.  It is a very informative short movie by Eugene Declercq, PhD, Professor of Maternal and Child Health at the Boston University School of Public Health, on the statistics surrounding birth and how important they are.  If you have not seen it already, take some time to watch it after reading this post.  He also has a great website called Birth by the Numbers.  But this post really is not about birth statistics. It is about numbers and their symbolism within the gospel and birth.

So I am pregnant, in the second trimester. Being pregnant often brings me to ponder more deeply gospel principles and how they relate to birth and to me.  I have really enjoyed reading The Lost Language of Symbolism by Alonzo Gaskill.  As I have re-read the chapter on numbers I thought of the significance that numbers represent throughout the process of giving life.

ONE

To begin the entire process of life unity or becoming “one” is required.  In fact, “applicable to all married couples is this command to Adam and Eve: ‘Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife. And they shall be one flesh’ (Genesis 2:24, Abraham 5:18)” (Gaskill, 113).  This coming together is symbolic of spiritual unity (Gaskill, 114).  We are asked to become one in spirit like the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one in bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.

TWO

For the oneness of intimacy to take place two different people are brought together.  One meaning of the use of the number two in scripture is symbolic of opposition and separation (Gaskill, 114).  When man and wife are in opposition or separated they are unable to progress.  They need the complementary natures of the other to progress and to create life. There is a second meaning relating to the law of witnesses (Gaskill, 114). Is it coincidence that there are two necessary and different biologic contributions (sperm and egg) or “witnesses” to create life?  It doesn’t seem too far-fetched when reading an additional meaning that the number two has as, “the image of ‘reproduction,’ or ‘life force’ or ‘creative power.’ The symbol is employed in the creation and preservation of the two sexes (see Genesis 1:27; 7:2)” (Gaskill, 115).

 

THREE

The Godhead is comprised of three members: Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost.  “When the number [three] is used in scripture, it frequently serves to emphasize divine involvement, backing or influence” (Gaskill, 115).  I am surely not the only one to feel divine involvement in my birth experiences.  I feel like God influenced me in many ways as I went to Him for guidance.  There are many examples in the scriptures, “Jesus served a three year ministry, he was tempted three times by Satan, raised three people from the dead, he took three disciples who represented the Godhead into the Garden of Gethsemane with him, he was crucified at the third hour, on Golgotha there were three crosses, darkness reigned for some three hours while he was on the cross, his body lay for three days in a tomb.  The repetitive presence of the number three in relation to the Atonement implies that God was behind this most sacred of events” (Gaskill, 116).  Birth is also a sacred event underscored by a three-fold marriage covenant between husband, wife, and God, three trimesters, and three stages of birth. We also see the number three used frequently in temple worship and its ordinances denoting the idea that they typify or symbolize God (Gaskill, 117).  This thought causes me to ponder its significance as we are constantly reminded that our bodies are temples.  It is likely that many of the processes within our bodies typify or symbolize God.  For more on temple symbolism and birth see these posts: If Birth Were a Temple, Mirrors by Rocky Cordray, and Holiness to the Lord The House of the Lord also by Rocky Cordray.

 

FOUR

Heather points out in her “Two Veils” essay that “the way in which life is created is a four step process beginning with sexual intimacy, followed by conception, then pregnancy, culminating in the birth of a new human soul” (The Gift of Giving Life, 58).  This four step process is deeply symbolic, “the number four symbolizes geographic completeness or totality.  In other words, if the number four is associated with an event or thing, the indication is that it will affect the entire earth and its inhabitants” (Gaskill, 119). Some examples would be: four regions on the earth of north, south, east, and west; four seasons in the year of spring, summer, fall, winter; four great elements of earth, wind, fire, and water; four is the first square number.  Every time life is created (or destroyed) I believe that it alters the earth.  Creating life is miraculous and life altering for sure.

Oh, and there is more.  Tune in Friday for Part 2 of this post!