Days for Girls in Nepal

IMG_3826My heart sings when I receive a photo like this one from Nepal, where Days for Girls kits are being distributed.  This same fabric recently came out of my washing machine and is waiting to be cut and made into bags and shields.  This makes my heart swell and feel close to girls I will never meet in places I may never see.  But things I touch and love with touch and love them.  I’m good with that.x

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The Theodore Turley Papers

Today is Theodore Turley’s Birthday!  This last weekend as we prepared to celebrate Theodore’s birthday, family members gathered for a day of temple worship.  I wish I could have joined them.  As part of the celebrations, my friends Rick and David Turley met with a group in Salt Lake to talk about our book which is getting closer to publication.   We have been working on this project for several years.  I’m excited to see it all coming together.

Here’s the PowerPoint presentation they showed:

TT Papers 1TT Papers 2.5TT Papers 2TT Papers 3TT Papers 4TT Papers 5TT Papers 6TT Papers 7

TT Papers 8

TT Papers 9TT Papers 10TT Papers 11

I love Theodore Turley and his family.  His daughter, Charlotte is my 2nd Great-grandma, but she feels more like a sister to me.  I have studied their lives and the lives of many Turley family members for years.  I think about them all the time.  They are dear to me.

Happy Birthday, Theodore!

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Days for Girls Spreads from Washington to Uganda, Haiti, Nicaragua, Kenya and Zambia!

Good things are happening in Washington.  We do a lot of wonderful missionary work here, but we are also spreading Days for Girls Joy.  Since we arrived here in July 2015, my friends and I have introduced 100s of women to Days for Girls and we have work days throughout or mission.

So far, good men and women here have more than 2,500 kits.  We’ve sent kits to Haiti, Uganda, Kenya, Nicaragua and Zambia.

Here are a few photos of the goodness that has come out of our Yakima area groups:

Distribution in Uganda:2017-3-30 Jaclyn Thatcher trip 1In August 2016 we sent Days for Girls kits from Yakima to a small isolated island called Brussi in Uganda.  Here are photos and a report from Jaclyn Thatcher, an LDS nurse here in Yakima who helped organize the kit distribution there.  Her husband is going to medical school here.  We were thrilled to work with both of them and other medical students who went on this expedition.2017-3-30 Jaclyn Thatcher trip 5

Here are photos from kit distribution in Zambia:2017-3 Zambia Orphanage 1Lindy Michelle and her daughter, went on the road to the Garden Orphanage in Lusaka, Zambia.   The Family Legacy organization has more than 14,000 orphans in their care there.2017-3 Zambia Orphanage 9

The Garden Compound:2017-3 Zambia Orphanage 82017-3 Zambia Orphanage 62017-3 Zambia Orphanage 7

This girl is far too young to be pregnant:2017-3 Zambia Orphanage 52017-3 Zambia Orphanage 32017-3 Zambia Orphanage 22017-3 Zambia Orphanage 4

Kits going to Haiti:2016-11-1 DfG to Haiti

We are working with the Harvest for Humanity organization out of British Columbia to get kits to Haiti.  They travel there regularly, and we’ve sent 100s of kits with them for these beautiful girls.2016-11-2 Kits arrive in Haiti2016-11-5 Haiti 1   2016-11-5 Haiti

More kits to Haiti with other local friends, Sara and Birch Ditto:2016-3-9 DfG Sara Ditto for Haiti (2)2016-4-7 Dittos to Haiti2016-4-18 Yakima Kits in Haiti 12016-4-18 Yakima Kits in Haiti2016-11 Haiti 1

I’m happy that so many women and men have joined us to help girls throughout the world face their challenges with dignity.  As they say in Africa, “It’s no small thing that we do!”

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Celebrating 175 Years of the Relief Society

Relief Society 175 years

The Relief Society is the largest women’s organization in the world, organized on this day 175 years ago.  I am so happy to be numbered with women all over the world, from many generations.

Here are six generations of covenant Relief Society women in my family:

Claire Lewis Johnson, Ann Laemmlen Lewis, Grace Helen Smuin Laemmlen, Ruby Grace Lundquist Smuin, Grace Honor Bushman Lundquist, and Charlotte Turley Bushman.  Charlotte’s mother, Frances Amelia Kimberley Turley, who died at Winter Quarters, was also a member of this wonderful society.

2016-5 Claire & Graham Engagement (42)    _94A9556[1]Laemmlen, Grace portrait   Smuin, Ruby Grace portraitBushman, Grace Honor portrait  Charlotte Turley

I have enjoyed being a part of the Relief Society for 40 years now, and have met with women of many cultures in many countries.  I’ve served twice as a Relief Society President.  I love the Relief Society.  I love the sisterhood, the service we provide, and the connection I feel to those who have gone before me.  What we do is important and good. I am grateful for mothers and daughters, sisters and friends.

Relief Society purpose

As Relief Society sisters participate in the work of salvation, we become disciples of Jesus Christ. We strive to understand the doctrine of the Atonement of Jesus Christ to increase our faith and our desire to live righteously. We participate in priesthood ordinances and cheerfully cleave to covenants made, which gives us greater access to priesthood power, and strengthens us individually and in our families and homes. Working in unity with priesthood brethren, we minister to and help those in need with charity, the pure love of Christ. As we do these things, we become  “one” with the Father and the Son.

This is what I believe:

Women of God can never be like women of the world. The world has enough women who are tough; we need women who are tender. There are enough women who are coarse; we need women who are kind. There are enough women who are rude; we need women who are refined. We have enough women of fame and fortune; we need more women of faith. We have enough greed; we need more goodness. We have enough vanity; we need more virtue. We have enough popularity; we need more purity.
–Margaret D. Nadauld

Here is the transcript of a talk given by Jean B. Bingham, the General Relief Society President who spoke at the United Nations in New York City, Thursday, April 13, 2017:RS Jean B. Bingham UN Apr 2017.1

Focus on Faith Briefing Remarks — President Jean B. Bingham

Assembled dignitaries, honored guests, ladies and gentlemen:

I am honored to be here today to discuss the role of faith-based organizations in relieving suffering and building self-reliance among the peoples of the world — particularly those who are most vulnerable. I am grateful to be in the midst of so many friends who recognize the tremendous good that is achieved when people of faith come together.

Relief Society

I am here today in my role as the Relief Society General President for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Since its origins 175 years ago, the purpose of the Relief Society has been to minister to “the relief of the poor, the destitute, the widow and the orphan, and…the exercise of all benevolent purposes.”  Today, the Relief Society is the oldest and one of the largest women’s organization in the world, with more than 7 million members across the globe. Its purposes, however, remain the same: to increase faith, strengthen the family, and relieve suffering.

In the very first meeting of the Relief Society, Emma Smith, the first Relief Society President said, “We are going to do something extraordinary.” And indeed, when you can mobilize 7 million women, each doing what they can according to their own time and resources, there is no limit to what they can achieve.

I believe that every faith-based organization echoes that same sentiment. We all desire to “accomplish something extraordinary” — and working together, we will. But let’s not forget that large, extraordinary achievements are generally made up of many small, seemingly insignificant contributions. Indeed, a notable passage in the Book of Mormon states that it is “by small and simple things are great things brought to pass.”

Today I will look at how people of all faiths can unite together to relieve suffering through small and simple means.

LDS Church History

Both doctrinally and historically, the plight of those in need is one that resonates with most communities of faith, including The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Those familiar with the Church today recognize the state of Utah as its worldwide headquarters, but most do not realize that it was not always so.

The Church was actually organized here in the state of New York, but severe religious persecution drove its early members from one location to another. During one particularly harsh period after Church members had congregated in Missouri, the state’s governor issued an executive order indicating that they must be driven from the state. As frightened families fled with what few possessions they could carry, they found refuge in neighboring Illinois, where kind strangers ministered to their needs, providing food, clothing, and shelter.

But peace was only temporary, and continuing hostility eventually forced the exodus of the Mormon pioneers — including every one of my great-great-grandparents — to the Salt Lake Valley. Is it any wonder, then, that our community of faith feels so strongly about our responsibility to help those who are outcast or otherwise in need?

In 1842, following a period of intense persecution, Church founder Joseph Smith made this remarkable declaration: “[A member of the Church] is to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to provide for the widow, to dry up the tear of the orphan, to comfort the afflicted, whether in this church, or in any other, or in no church at all, wherever he finds them.” Can you imagine the boldness of such a statement to a group of exiles who must have been consumed with thoughts of how they would provide for themselves and their children…and their leader asks them to assist those who may be in even greater need? And yet this has always been our rallying call.

Beginnings of Church Humanitarian Efforts

The members of the Church have always been involved in humanitarian work, such as assisting the needy in Europe after World War II or providing relief to victims of natural disasters in many parts of the world.  Those efforts became more formalized in 1985 with the establishment of LDS Charities.  At that time, Church leaders became increasingly concerned with the news of the prolonged and devastating famine in Eastern Africa. After deliberating about how the Church could best help, they decided to turn to the individual members. A special fast was designated, in which members throughout the world were asked to forego two meals and to contribute the money saved to a special relief fund for those impacted by the famine. The response to such a simple request was overwhelming, and the small and simple donations—in the aggregate—allowed the Church to make a great contribution.

From those beginnings, donations have increased over time and have led to the formation of LDS Charities, the humanitarian arm of the Church. The work of LDS Charities spans the globe and consists of emergency response, refugee relief, clean water and sanitation, and support for various health care initiatives. Like so many other charitable organizations, our efforts are propelled by our faith that it is our God-given responsibility to relieve suffering, lighten the burdens of the afflicted, and bring hope to the hopeless.

To read the rest of her wonderful remarks, please check here:

RS Jean B. Bingham UN Apr 2017

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The Greatest of all the Commandments

Greatest Commandment

I recently met with a young missionary who told me an incredible story.  I can’t stop thinking about the experience he shared with me.  As we visited during our interviews, he told me he had looked forward his entire life to being a missionary.  His call came to serve in our Washington Yakima Mission.  He was assigned to learn to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ in the Spanish language.

He was so excited when at last the day arrived and he flew to the Mexico Missionary Training Center, where he was introduced to his companion, who would be with him 24/7 for the next 6 weeks.  He told me, “as we met, we pretty quickly realized that we had nothing in common, in fact, as the first couple of days passed, we discovered that we didn’t really like each other at all.”  When this missionary was asked to take the lead, and then to be the District Leader, his companion got angry and upset because he was not the one asked to be in charge.

“The first few days were pretty hard, ” this Elder told me.  “We struggled to find common ground.  By the second week, it was horrible.  We didn’t study together, we didn’t pray together, we didn’t even speak to each other.”

This young Elder told me that all his life-long dreams of being a happy missionary were being dashed.  He was having trouble sleeping, he was irritated and he hated his companion.  “And,”  he told me, “he hated me.”

“I started praying for help,” he said.  “I prayed that someone would notice that a mistake had been made.  We were not supposed to be companions.  They got it wrong.  Someone needed to make a change and fix things.  This was not working.”

Nothing changed.  It only got worse.  “My friends suggested that I pray to know how to serve my companion–maybe that would help me love him.”

“I tried to serve him, but he was so annoying, that didn’t really help either.  I just didn’t like him and he didn’t like me. Nothing was working.”

“Then,” he said, “something miraculous happened.”  He told me that every week a visiting authority came to give an evening devotional.  The speaker on that Tuesday evening used Matthew 22 as his text, talking about the first and great commandment.Greatest Commandment 1

This good missionary said, “I was all ears.  I needed to know what to do.  I was so unhappy and miserable.  I was listening and taking notes and trying to learn.  Then the speaker started talking about loving our neighbor (or our companion) as ourselves.  He had my full attention.”

“What happened next changed my life,” he told me.  “The speaker said one sentence that turned my whole world and perspective upside down.”  He told me, “when these words came from his mouth, I felt like someone picked up a dagger and plunged it into my chest.  My whole chest felt like it was on fire, going to explode.”

I picked up my pen, ready to write down the words that changed everything for him.  I tried to imagine what they would be.  I wrote the sentence as he told it to me:

If it’s not a choice, it wouldn’t be a commandment.”

“In an instant,” he told me, “my whole world turned upside down and the Spirit taught me.  I saw things clearly from a completely new perspective.  I saw that the problem was not my companion, as I had thought.  He wasn’t even part of the equation.”  “The problem,” he said, “was with me.  I was choosing not to love.  I was breaking the commandment.  It had nothing at all to do with my companion. I was the problem.”

This good missionary went on to tell me that from that evening on, everything changed.  It was a miracle.  He said, “I realized that love is a choice and I could choose to love or choose not to love.  I chose to love.”

“After that evening, we started talking to each other,” he told me.  “We got to know each other.  We learned from each other.  We started studying together and praying together.  We started to teach together and feel the Spirit as we taught.”

Then he smiled real big and told me that by the end of their 6 weeks together, they were a united companionship.  He said, “I wouldn’t trade that MTC experience for anything in the world.  If they had sent me home after that first 6 weeks, my mission would have been a success!  I learned the greatest lesson of my life!”

I have reflected on this experience again and again.  “If it’s not a choice, it wouldn’t be a commandment.”  Love is the greatest of all great commandments.  Therefore, love is a choice.  The best choice we will ever make.

Thank you, good Elder, for helping me see things a little more clearly.

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Let’s pull ourselves together

We are living in troubled times.  In many ways, it’s nice to be sheltered from much of what’s going on out there.  We don’t have time or energy left at the end of the day to watch or read the news, but I catch and hear glimpses.  Our nation is divided.  Our families are divided.  My friends are divided.  In my memory, there has never been an election year like last year with 2 candidates unsuited for office.  We are now in the first 100 days of Trump’s Presidency.  There is hatred and despair in the world.  I hope we can pull ourselves together and lend support and prayers for our government leaders, and carry on with our living.  We have work to do.

Below is part of an essay written by C. S. Lewis in 1948, during another troubled time.


In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. “How are we to live in an atomic age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”

In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors – anaesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.

This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things – praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts – not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.

On Living in An Atomic Age is one of nineteen essays by C.S. Lewis included in Present Concerns.

cs-lewis-present-concernsatomic-bomb-hiroshima-1Hiroshima, after the atomic bomb dropped on 9 August 1945.


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What It Really Means When Women Are “Unclean” in the Scriptures

I found this article by Heather Farrell  on her Women and the Scriptures website and want to post it so I remember what I learned here:

There is one word in the Bible that bothered me for a long time. It was the word unclean, especially when it was used in connection with menstruation, childbirth, sexual intimacy and women’s bodies. For example in Leviticus 15 it says this, “And if a woman have an issue, and her issue in her flesh be blood, she shall be put apart seven days: and whosoever toucheth her shall be unclean until the even. And every thing that she lieth upon in her separation shall be unclean: every thing also that she sitteth upon shall be unclean.” (Lev. 15:9-20)

These scriptures go on for thirteen more verses explaining all the ways women can be unclean during menstruation. In Leviticus 12 it explains how a woman is unclean after childbirth, and how she is doubly unclean after giving birth to a girl. It seems like the Bible is filled with examples of how a woman’s body, especially the blood she sheds, is unclean. So unclean in fact, that just being around a woman who is bleeding can make you unclean.

This all really bothered me. I know that are there are some women who were taught to be ashamed of their ability to menstruate, or who are embarrassed or inconvenienced by it,
but my mother did a wonderful job instilling in me the beauty, joy, and responsibility of having a female body. I’d been taught at home, and in church, that things like menstruation, childbirth and sexual intimacy were good things, ways designed to bring new life into the world, and that they were important parts of fulfilling God’s plan for His children. It confused me why God would call them “unclean” and even require extensive rituals to become “clean” from them.

When I was writing Walking with the Women of the New Testament I did some research about the Woman with an Issue of Blood. I was interested in knowing what she would have experienced and why she was considered to be unclean. The first thing I learned was that the Hebrew word that is translated as “unclean” in the KJV is the word tuma and it does not mean “dirty” or “contaminated.”

In fact, the word tuma is a complex word that can’t be directly translated into English. The simplest explanation is that it is the “energy of death” that fills the world. It comes from the word tamai which means “spiritually impure”, as in being separated from the presence of God. In fact, according to Jewish teachings tuma is what Adam and Eve brought into the world when they took of the fruit of the Tree of Good and Evil. Tuma is the loss of spiritual power that comes from being distanced from God and being able to die, both physically and spiritually.

A dead body is the highest form of tuma (“uncleanliness”) because as a living person, organized in the image of God, it has the greatest spiritual potential of all God’s creations. When a human dies their spiritual potential departs and creates a “spiritual vacuum”, and their body becomes tuma. In a similar way, a woman who has given birth is also tuma because when she was pregnant she was filled with potential life and the spiritual power of creation. When her child is born that spiritual power departs and she becomes tuma. In addition by bringing a new child into the world she has also brought more death, because each child who lives must also one day die.

In a sense each one of us “fell” on the day we were born, leaving the presence of God where we were pure and sinless. When we were born we become subject to the “natural” man and gained the ability to sin, thus distancing us further from God. Perhaps this is also the reason that a woman who gave birth to a girl was considered twice as “unclean” (see Leviticus 12) because each girl born meant more life and thus more death and sin…more tuma.

A man was also considered to be tuma after sexual intercourse because of the loss of potential life contained in each one of the sperm he spilled. In a similar way a woman was considered unclean after menstruation because each egg that she shed had the potential to become a new human life. Each egg inside a woman is filled with divine power, the power to activate and create human life. While the egg remains inside of her its spiritual potential is high. Yet once the egg passes through her body that spiritual potential leaves putting her in a state of tuma.

In order to become “clean” (ritually pure) from tuma you had to bathe in a ceremonial bath called a mikvah. The mikvah served no hygienic purpose because before someone bathed in it they had to wash themselves completely from head to toe. In many ways it was much like baptism; immersing yourself completely under the water to become spiritually clean and reconciled with God. I loved how this Jewish woman explained her understanding of tuma and the mikvah. She wrote:

“… in the words of Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, ” . . . water represents the womb of Creation. When a person immerses in the mikvah, he is placing himself in the state of the world yet unborn, subjecting himself totally to G-d’s creative power.”In this context, it is easy to understand why immersion in a mikvah removes tuma. After the contact with death, we submerge ourselves in the substance from which life emerged….

Under the law of Moses each person– male, female, young, old– had to atone for their own sins, in order to bring them back into a state of purity or holiness. Yet we know that because of the atonement of Jesus Christ the law of Moses is no longer required. Christ fulfilled the law of Moses and enabled us to become clean from our sins, and from our tuma, by communing and accepting His divine sacrifice. Children are born pure, without the ability to sin (see Moroni 8). Each week we take the sacrament we are becoming clean– re-born– in much the same way that the mikvah made ancient Jews clean from their fallen state, their state of tuma.

A Medieval Mikvah in Germanymikvah
It is beautiful symbolism and was designed to turn the Children of Israel’s hearts towards their need for a Savior, the One who saves us from our continual state of tuma. These laws also had other lessons to teach. The same Jewish woman I quote above also wrote this, “The menstrual Laws, like all the Laws of Judaism, imbue us with a constant consciousness of the miracles which comprise our daily existence. We certainly do not view the menstruation cycle as disgusting, or even as routine and ordinary. Rather, these Laws enable us to recognize the awesome potential of life as it regenerates itself within our very own bodies.”

I love how she says that the menstrual laws are/were designed to help women recognize the incredible power that is housed within their bodies. I think too often in our culture we see menstruation as something routine, inconvenient, embarrassing, and even shameful. We don’t celebrate when a young woman begins her period or do anything to acknowledge the blood sacrifice that women give each month; a sacrifice that makes all human life on earth possible.

I think that if we as women really understood what incredible power we house within our bodies it would change the way we feel about ourselves. Just think about how incredible it is that every woman was born into the world with hundreds of thousands of eggs laying wait in her body. Then at puberty her power to transform those eggs into another human being becomes activated. From that point on every month, for the next thirty or forty years, she will shed her blood as a constant tribute to the continuation of life. Even if none of those eggs ever become a living human person, her body is a powerhouse of life, creating and sacrificing each month with continual hope. And that isn’t “dirty” or “unclean” in any way… just plain miraculous.

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