07 May 2010

Am I Remarkable?

Elder Neal A. Maxwell is/was one of my favorite apostles. I'm not sure that one is supposed to have a 'favorite' apostle...but if we're allowed to, Elder Maxwell would definitely be one of mine. I love the lyricism of his words, especially the plethora of alliterations he uses; I also love how layered his words are (so much meaning can be found in the simple, succinct phrases he employs).

The talk he gave in the April 1978 General Conference, "The Women of God," has profoundly impacted my perspective of womanhood. Seth Adam Smith combined the prolific words of Elder Maxwell with beautiful pictures to create the video (see video below) called "The Remarkable Women of God."

After watching Seth's video and re-reading Elder Maxwell's talk in the May 1978 Ensign magazine, my mind is awash with thoughts about the subject of womanhood/motherhood and the relationship womanhood/motherhood has to the priesthood and to priesthood bearers.

My father is an excellent man who honors his priesthood, is the first on the scene when someone needs help and the last one to leave a function because he stayed to clean up. Though I have not heard him bear his testimony vocally very often (I think I can count the number of times on one hand--and one of those times was at my missionary farewell), I know what he believes and in whom He trusts because of the way he lives his life. Because he is generous, loving, kind, long-suffering, gentle, and patient, I try to emulate his example in the way I live my life.

Yet, there is something lacking, something that my father never taught me: he never taught me that God loved me, that I as a daughter of God had potential to be remarkable and influential, or that I had intrinsic worth. My father valued me (still does); that I know to be true. However, he never taught me about who *I* am or what it means to be a daughter of God. I guess he thought I knew, that I'd figure it out on my own, or that someone else would teach me.

So I've been left to wander on my own and wonder about who I am. My dad taught me to be a hard worker and to be responsible...but is my identity only related to how much I work I offer or how responsible I am? What about the times when I can't give my normal 250%--when I'm ill, struggling, or weak and can only muster 180% (or even 'worse,' 100%!)? Am I capable of being 'remarkable' if I can only give less than 250%? Does my worth diminish if I give a lower percentage of effort?

I want to be remarkable. I want to be known as a woman of God. But am I? Am I 'remarkable' at all? Am I a woman of God--that kind about which Elder Maxwell lauded? I don't know if I am or if I am even capable of this greatness. When I look into the mirror, all I see is a janitor's daughter who has been lucky to make it this far in life and to have what she has in life. I don't see a daughter of God; I don't even know what it would mean to be such a thing.

And yet I want to be and personify a daughter of God. I want to know what that identity feels like and to be authorized to be about my Father's business. I want to know Heavenly Father trusts me to act for Him and to serve His other children for Him. Most importantly, I want to feel the warmth of His love and acceptance enveloping me safely and securely like a down comforter.

When I hear men praise their wives, I am moved and the desire grows within me to be the kind of woman for whom such praise would be deserving. But will any man ever feel that way about me, a janitor's daughter who has no guarantee that I won't turn out 'crazy' like other women in my maternal line? Am I capable of being this kind of remarkable woman--or am I deceiving myself with 'thoughts of grandeur'?

I believe the words Elder Maxwell speaks are true--I know they are true. But can they ever be true for me or about me
I, along with my brethren of the priesthood, express undying gratitude to our eternal partners. We know that we can go no place that matters without you, nor would we have it otherwise. When we kneel to pray, we kneel together. When we kneel at the altar of the holy temple, we kneel together. When we approach the final gate where Jesus Himself is the gatekeeper, we will, if faithful, pass through that gate together.

The prophet who sits with us today could tell us of such togetherness, when at the time of his overwhelming apostolic calling he was consoled by his Camilla, who met his anguished, sobbing sense of inadequacy and, running her fingers through his hair, said, “You can do it, you can do it.” He surely has done it, but with her at his side.

Notice, brethren, how all the prophets treat their wives and honor women, and let us do likewise!
-- Elder Neal A. Maxwell, "The Women of God," Ensign, May 1978, 10.
My deepest desire in life is not to climb the corporate ladder, to have a spacious house with the finest furnishings, to travel the world as a tourist, or to become a political force. All I want--all I desire with the deepest longings of my soul--is to be a wife who supports, sustains, encourages, and consoles her husband (as Sister Camilla Kimball did) and a mother who teaches her children that they are loved, what it means to be a child of God, and that "God will always be their friend" (see the additional intro lyrics from "A Child's Prayer" that Janice Kapp Perry wrote for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir). I want to be a remarkable woman.

But am I? Am I really capable of anything remotely 'remarkable'? Is there anything remarkable about me? I feel that there is divine potential in me, even if only divine desires. But are divine desires enough? Am *I* enough? Will I ever be a 'remarkable' woman, a woman of God, and a woman who God trusts?

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