17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Who's the Best and Does it Matter?

Ever since I attended the R.S. Broadcast last week, I haven't been able to get Pres. Beck's talk from that broadcast to the women out of my head. (You can read the text from the talk I am speaking of here

There were many parts of her talk I enjoyed. She spoke with a strong, confident voice aimed at a strong and confident adult audience rather than a sing-song voice that seems better suited for a Sunbeam class. I also enjoyed her emphasis on relief - especially the idea that planning relief activities will breed sociality, but not necessarily the other way around.

However, Pres. Beck’s repeated use of the word "BEST" (as in we should be the "best at families", the "best at relief" and *"the best at homemaking"*) left me feeling troubled.

It immediately reminded me of the times my five year old daughter has approached me with a friend in tow wanting to know "who is the best at jump-roping, mom?", "who is the best at drawing princesses?", or "who is the best at singing 'Spoonful of Sugar?’" I really drives me crazy. I repeatedly have to remind her that it doesn't matter who is “the best,” it just matters that we try our best with the gifts we are given.

The gospel, as I understand it, does not teach that life is a competition or that we have to be “the best” at anything. It's about personal growth. All we can do is try to be a better person than we were yesterday and the day before (which in itself is a hard thing to do).

Didn’t Christ bring the gospel directly to the sinners and the imperfect? All sorts of imperfect people are drawn to Christ with all different life experiences and gifts. To say how far along the path towards perfection all Mormon women should be at any one moment in time is to overlook each person's path to Christ as truly her own.

Also, the “best” rhetoric can be harmful to women of the church. Comparing ourselves with others can bring guilt, sadness, frustration and not a lot of lasting growth. And more mom guilt is the last thing most of us need.

Not to mention how our view of "being the best" can affect how we view others around us. Making it our goal to be better than all the other non-Mormon women of the world at raising families and providing relief divides us from the good they are doing as well.

This type of rhetoric can also promote the unnecessary judging of other Mormon women; women who might not be as good at "families" or "relief" or whatever the chosen gospel principle may be. "Come on! You're dragging us down!" a competitive voice might yell. But once again, the gospel is for the imperfect not the best.

It seems to me that the question we ought to be asking ourselves is not "how can we, a group of Mormon women, be better than a group of non-Mormon women," but rather "how can I more effectively let my Mormonism make me better than I otherwise would be?” It seems far more effective on this personal, non-competitive level.

Maybe this is what Pres. Beck meant to communicate. I am interested in listening to her talk again when it becomes available. But whether she meant it or not, I think her repeated use of “we can and should be the best” language not only carries with it flawed logic but is a poor motivator and can lead to a dangerous, un-Christ-like way of thinking.

What do you think? All comments will be accepted except for those that insinuate Carrie is going to hell for her prideful and "finding fault" thoughts.

*this phrase was from her talk given at the sunday morning session of conference. I would rather not talk about the troubling points of that talk here. That can of worms has already been opened over here or here. For some more uplifting/generous commentary on Pres. Beck's Sunday morning talk you can go here or here.


  • OOOOOOOOOOOOh man. I cannot comment because I missed Relief Society, and I fell asleep during her talk this morning. (ok, I'll comment anyway). I could tell a little where her talk was going this morning, which is why I took a bathroom break, and never made it back into where we were watching, because my bed looked too enticing.

    A large part of my personality is competitive. I consider this a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing because I have tweaked my impulses to compete against myself, to work on my personal best. It is a weakness when I fall into comparing myself to others. To avoid this, I try to focus on a personal measuring stick, instead of against others so that I do not fall into the "guilt, sadness, and frustration" that you write about carrie.

    I have also tried to turn my competitiveness into a strength by observing women that have qualities that I want to have too. Often my best friends are girls that I look up to. I want to be with them so that I can learn how to be more compassionate, more service-oriented, more patient, more creative, more loving, more generous, the list goes on. And so the "BEST" word isn't working for me either.

    I would like to be improving, growing, learning, sharing, giving, mastering, but if I am the best, then doesn't that mean I have reached the end of my journey? It's only down from there?
    posted by Blogger Kage at 10/07/2007 06:38:00 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by the author.
    posted by Blogger colds1 at 10/07/2007 07:41:00 PM  

  • colds1 left the link to the text of pres. Beck's talk in her comment (which she later deleted - not sure why). Thank you! I went back and read through it. And there is no way to work around what she meant -be the best as compared to others not just your best self or better than you were yesterday, or however I would like to interpret it with lines like these:

    "They (latter-day saint women) can and should do families better than anyone else."

    "We are a Relief Society, and we should be the best women in the world at providing relief"
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 10/07/2007 08:32:00 PM  

  • First I love this blog and especially your comments in particular tftcarrie on all subjects.

    But I disagree. I did think it was wierd to hear the word best, because everyone is trying to be so PC, but I agree with her. It was a call to raise the bar. I was like, 'yikes" I should be the example. I didnt' feel to comfortable hearing it because I have lots to work on, but she is right. And I felt that.

    Pres. Beck seems like a butt kicker this one and I like it. She doesn't mess around. But by being the best I think that is by showing our vulnerability in not always having all the answers, but we do have the tools...the scriptures, eternal perspective, temples, personal revelation, prayers. And there are a million other mothers in the world doing the same thing we are, without the knowledge of those things and the opportunities we have.

    Plus we do belong to the Best church, although we don't go around blabbing that, so maybe we shouldn't be making LDS Moms are the best shirts just yet...

    Good debate. Thanks! crazy mom of three
    posted by Blogger Shake Your Booty Bossy Lady at 10/07/2007 09:11:00 PM  

  • Carrie, I'm so right with you.
    And I'll stop there. :)
    posted by Blogger cchrissyy at 10/07/2007 09:18:00 PM  

  • I listened to this talk today and when it finished I was crying. For a lot of reasons. For guilt. For a renewed desire to try harder. For the frustration I felt that she was wrong about some things (or at least the way she worded it...).

    It's been on my mind all day.

    I truly believe in sustaining my leaders and am therefore...confused...tonight? Because I simply don't agree with some of the her talk (btw, over at FMH, Tanya has transcribed the whole talk - read it).

    But on the other hand, I appreciate a strong female leader, which I think she is. I don't mind being told that I can/should do better - in fact I welcome a swift kick in the butt now and then.

    But I'm still conflicted tonight. So the answer for me is that I'm going to pray about it. And re-read the talk, and pray about it again until I feel more settled...
    posted by Blogger Chloe at 10/07/2007 09:37:00 PM  

  • Not to be the ultra commenter, but in rereading my comment a few additions...

    I don't think it's about winners vs. losers. If I'm the best that doesn't mean you are not, but that she is telling us we should be the leaders. We don't have a monopoly of best obviously, but from what I've seen of mothers, some of the best are LDS.

    In my son's brief school experience, I can see that he is lucky to have me as a mom. But as the best we still can say that we make mistakes, don't have it all figured out, have bad days, are human, etc.

    Okay, thanks for the awesome topic. No more, I promise. :)
    posted by Blogger Shake Your Booty Bossy Lady at 10/07/2007 10:34:00 PM  

  • I don't know how to directly link it, but you can go to byu.tv, select "Choose a Date," select last Saturday (9/29?), and scroll down to the 6:00 p.m. slot. You can do the same with general sessions from this weekend (or look at the bottom RH corner for direct links to each session).

    I think maybe I wasn't paying super-close attention to either of her talks because I was not offended! But I know some people were, including a friend of mine I was watching it with. I remember thinking last Saturday, "We should do families best, that's right, I need to get better at that." But like I said, I think maybe my mind was elsewhere! Maybe I was thinking about the pie I had just eaten (hooray for dessert at stake RS events). And then I was chasing my 9-mo-old around during yesterday's version of the same talk (it seemed to me).

    I absolutely loved Sis Beck when she was in the YW pres and I worked with the YW at the same time. I don't remember why, exactly. But she is definitely not Sis Parkin; she is not "warm and fuzzy" as my friend put it. I don't know. I think I want to watch the talks again too and see if I notice anything different.

    BTW I am definitely nowhere near being the best at ANY homemaking stuff. Nor am I the best mom. In fact I have been thinking I need to prioritize a little more a la Elder Oaks's "good-better-best." But I think I'm just too tired to worry about that right now! It depends on the day!
    posted by Blogger Eliza at 10/08/2007 05:26:00 AM  

  • AMEN, Carrie
    posted by Blogger Heather O. at 10/08/2007 06:10:00 AM  

  • I can't comment over a fMh because frankly, hey're scaring me a tad, but I loved your post. This talk made my tummy go in knots from start to finish, and I was sitting there with my in-laws and husband, who were all cheering it and loving it. I applaud that she didn't give a dull, sweeite-filled talk, but this, like the RS broadcast, just hit me in he gut. Mostly, it was her comment about "women who know desire to have children." I have no desire to have children, and I'm a mom! I have one beautiful daughter, and it's been the hardest year of my life trying to love her and be a good mom, despite my feelings. I've tried to do the best I could, and I think I'm succeeding. I also know I want to have more than one, because I loved having siblings. As much as I don't desire to be a mom, I know I have been given too many blessings not to. But am I someone who is unrighteous or doesn't "know" because I haven't been given this desire?

    I'm glad she wasn't the usual boring woman speaker, but after she was done, I was really missing a Primary lady to get up and say something nice! Bravo for stating your point... but the delivery... ug.
    posted by Blogger Rocketgirl at 10/08/2007 06:18:00 AM  

  • i completely understand everyone's feelings on this talk, but when i listened to it, somehow i was able to glaze over all that "best" stuff (maybe cuz i was too tired to get worked up) and just focus on the things that i felt were the most important about her message-- like making sure that we teach gospel principles in the home. i have taught enough sunday school and young women classes to know that this doesn't happen as much as it should. i think i do a decent job at this, but i also know that i have a lot of room for improvement. as kage said, i have a lot to learn by observing other women and i love the boost and inspiration that i receive from them. i never will be the best, and that is okay by me. i'm sure sister beck didn't mean to start all this chatter and really just was trying to inspire us all to do a little more than we currently are. i know that i needed to hear that.
    posted by Blogger merathon at 10/08/2007 07:19:00 AM  

  • 1 Nephi 16:2 (easy to find on lds.org)

    Frankly, Carrie, I think you are the BEST at EVERYTHING. You are the most amazing mother I've ever met. Your kindness and intelligence amaze me. I always stand in awe of you. In fact, I usually get nervous when being around you because of your confidence and skills. :)

    I have read, with concern, the bloggernacle's ability to FREAK OUT over EVERYTHING these last few years. It's awful. So many people are teetering on the fence with their testimonies, and instead of finding spiritual support, they are told (not you--I'm talking others) that our Leaders are basically stupid for telling us what we all actually need to hear.

    Our leaders aren't here to tell us that we are fabulous and perfect. They are here to help us become fabulous and perfect. And a good chastisement (like what chloe said) can do all of us good. I know I DESPERATELY need it. But like the scripture I quoted, sometimes it's hard to hear.

    fwiw, I do think Sister Beck was trying to say that we need to BE the best --but the only way to get there is to TRY. I'm sure she wasn't expecting the blogging world to be in uproar over her phrasing. :)
    posted by Blogger Cheryl at 10/08/2007 08:23:00 AM  

  • Thanks for your comments, Cheryl- I agree with you about the level of "freak-out-ness" in the bloggernacle - it isn't a supportive environment for those trying to BUILD their testimonies. Instead if frequently calls everything into question and you are left feeling negative (that's just IMO).

    And I also agree that Carrie is the BEST at everything - she's one of my most inspirational girlfriends :)
    posted by Blogger Chloe at 10/08/2007 08:30:00 AM  

  • One interesting point I liked about your post too was how others view perfection-crazed members. I went to a doctor once to get some help for an eating disorder. She listened intently until it came up that I was LDS and then she shut down, already decided about me. I asked her why, and her response was this -
    "About half of the people I see for eating disorders are of your faith. The fixation on perfection is the same with each one I've treated. Your church pushes you too hard."
    I was upset and tried to convince her that the church wasn't messed up - but it was ME, but she wouldn't listen. She had too much evidence. We should be the best. But... well, then I echo everything you said, merci:)
    posted by Anonymous reva at 10/08/2007 08:34:00 AM  

  • kage, thanks for your thoughtful comments. I also look to other women around me (mormon and not) and try incorporate their best qualities into my life as well and not because of my hope to one day be better than they are - just like you said competing in that way just doesn't work.

    Bossy Lady, chloe and cheryl - I don't mind a hard core kick in the pants at all. In fact I was getting a little tired of hearing all the leaders saying "your great just the way you are, you're a mom and you're awesome" (not those words exactly, but you get the point). But I believe there is even more butt kicking in the phrase "you need to be a better person tomorrow than you are today" than in "you need to be a better person than your neighbor". The first requires work from every person no matter what your level. With the latter, not necessarily.

    And bossy lady, in your second comment you say that if you are the best, it doesn't mean that your neighbor is not. In this definition, I believe you are talking about striving to be the "best we can be" which is clearly not the only definition of "best" Pres. Beck was talking about.

    Eliza- Oh yes, Elder Oaks talk, fantastic.

    rocketgirl - I get a little intimidated over at FMH too. I hope our turf over here is not quite as hostile (from both sides).

    cheryl - I'm just going to ignore that you pulled out that scripture on me and everyone else that is struggling to make sense of Pres. Beck's talk right now. Once again, I don't mind a good chastisement at all.

    I just think the language she used can be destructive, dangerous and can cause more harm than good. And the question is did she really mean it? Should our goal really be to be better than all the other people in the world? I just don't believe it. And that cheryl, is where you can say you disagree. And you can say you disagree that "the best" rhetoric is harmful in the ways that I have stated in my post.

    And you cannot say I am having a hard time with these words because I don't want to work continuously to be a better person. I absolutely know I do. This is a true piece of doctrine I cannot shun even though it is a hard road to walk. ANd one that I need to be reminded of all the time.

    I think you are reacting here to all of the comments you may have read in the bloggernacle over the past few years, and I am asking for your response to me personally.

    Merathon - I think you bring up a good point. How should we treat GC talks? Can we talk from them what we need to hear and glaze over the rest? Or say to ourselves "what she really meant was X even though she repeatedly said Y"
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 10/08/2007 09:11:00 AM  

  • Going along these lines, I loved the line in conference yesterday that having 'clean hands' doesn't necessarily mean we have 'clean hearts.' Therefore, we simply cannot lift ourselves up at the expense of putting others down, (or think we are better).

    That being said I don't know that this was the intent of the sister. I cut the speakers some slack because they have so many people they have to please and a large audience to speak to. That and they are probably scared to death to have to speak to all of us.

    I don't envy them!
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 10/08/2007 09:24:00 AM  

  • Rocket Girl:

    Cut yourself some slack. I have one thing to say, if this 'issue' you have with bearing children is the worst thing about you, then GOD BLESS YOU.

    Being a woman is hard in today's world. It is not simply our gender and roles that make it hard, it is also the circumstances we live in, AND our hormones.

    It's hard to accept where we are in life and be confident and happy in that, but I am positive that the Lord accepts our offerings, whatever they are.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 10/08/2007 09:32:00 AM  

  • I just have a question b/c I need to go and read the talk since I wasn't able to go to conference (even though my gut goes a little with chloe, cheryl and boss lady but we'll see).... Isn't anything over the pulpit of GC pretty much coming from the First Presidency as well? Do they read people's talks before they give them? You know... kind of an approval? I'm not sure, but I would think that any talk given at GC is something that the First Pres. and Pres. Hinckley thinks it's important for us to hear (however difficult it may be). I don't mean to blindly follow leaders without ever a question, but I do think it's important to sustain them absolutely.

    I think it's important to pray about the INTENT of the talk and maybe not get hung up on language if you disagree with a particular word choice. And I can't help but think what an overwhelming calling this woman has and how many women (in a million different circumstances) across the world she is trying to reach.

    Okay.... enough.... I'm off to actually read the talk:)
    posted by Blogger Beth at 10/08/2007 09:40:00 AM  

  • Carrie, Don't forget. This is the General Relief Sociey president of the entire church. Her words were not flippant but very deliberately chosen.

    You should be VERY careful in publicly saying her words were words were "destructive, dangerous and can cause more harm than good"

    If you are stuggling with this, it may be better to apply personal study and prayer leave the public forum out of it.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 10/08/2007 10:24:00 AM  

  • I listened to the RS broadcast in between the GC sessions yesterday
    (audio is available online too at lds.org).

    Oh man, my DH was in the room while I was listening. He made funny remarks and singing songs the whole rest of the day about being the "best" and being "better than you" :) We had pretty much the same conversation, bringing up the same things - how a lot of the things she said could breed guilt and depression.
    posted by Blogger tamrobot at 10/08/2007 11:11:00 AM  

  • to the anonymous who said:

    "I cut the speakers some slack because they have so many people they have to please and a large audience to speak to"

    I agree with you. It must be so hard.

    Beth - yes these talks are reviewed (I once heard it is by the correlation committee?) but we are still left with the question - once they are reviewed and given whatever stamp of approval they are given, does that mean every word has been given a stamp of approval? Because if that is true, it is much harder to "not get hung up on wording".

    to the last anonymous,
    I sort of think you might be my mom or one of my dear sisters. I appreciate your concern, but I don't need the clarification on who she is. My knowledge of her calling and my respect for that calling is why I am left feeling so troubled. I believe, in her calling as General Relief SOciety President that she is inspired to relay messages from God to the women of church. But does this mean that every single word that comes out of her mouth deliberate and inspired?

    Or can we just look to her intent? Because I want to believe that she didn't mean to use the word "best" in the "comparing way" she did with all the implications that come with that usage (not to mention that there is a good case that "mormons should be the best" just might not be a true or even attainable goal- at least not in this lifetime - I'll have my husband put up a link). But if her every word is inspired, why did she choose to use this language?

    But then we are back to question, can we just take things that are said by church leaders and say, "he/she meant X when he/she said Y".

    And I am curious anonymous, do you think that striving to best as compared to others around you is what you should be doing right now?
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 10/08/2007 11:29:00 AM  

  • It will not surprise anyone that I agree with my wife on this one, and I don't have much to add to what she has written. For those who are interested, C.S. Lewis has thoroughly and eloquently debunked the fallacy that good Christians should be "the best." Read Mere Christianity, Book IV, Chapter 10 - "Nice People or New Men."

    I don't know how to create a link, but you can read the entire book here (Chapter 10 starts on p.98):

    I am excited to see where Sister Beck takes the Relief Society over the next few years. The strong tone of her first few talks seems promising. But based purely on the content of those same talks, she is off to quite an inauspicious start.
    posted by Anonymous Todd at 10/08/2007 11:32:00 AM  

  • Also, for whatever it's worth, Sis. Beck's talk felt (at least to me) a lot like a Boss or Executive's motivational speaking. "We need to be the best at x, y, z." I think I've personally heard my boss say that 20 times. "We" meaning not each person individually but as a whole, and not really even literally. The intent being to motivate us to be better that we are now. I don't necessarily believe that is the best tactic in a religious setting, but it does seem to be how its done a lot in the business world...
    posted by Blogger tamrobot at 10/08/2007 11:59:00 AM  

  • tamrobot,

    I am so glad you brought this up. I was thinking along these lines last night as I was laying in bed trying to figure out why she might use these kinds of words. It's like corporate rah, rah. It's the only explanation that kind of makes sense, although it doesn't feel quite right in the religious setting like you said. And in the religious setting, this type of competitive language has the ability to cause more damage than motivation.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 10/08/2007 12:17:00 PM  

  • Okay. I am commenting again per Carrie's request [thank you for the phone call, although I didn't want to answer! :)].

    I have read Sister Beck's talk again. I have read Carrie's post again. I have read the comments. Here is my reluctant opinion (if you want to know why it is reluctant, go read my blog):

    First: Sister Beck was using President Hinckley's words as a springboard. He was the one that used the term "BEST" and "BETTER".

    Second: Todd, C.S. Lewis rocks my world. But he wasn't a prophet; his words aren't the final say when it comes to vocabulary. :)

    Third: Sister Beck meant exactly what she meant. But so did President Hinckley. Using the word "Best" does not automatically connotate that we are to now compare ourselves to people. But--I can see how you, Carrie, and others took it that way.

    Fourth: I think we need to look at the intent. Yes, I believe her words were inspired. Yes, I believe her words are backed by President Hinckley and the Apostles (or she never would have been allowed to give it). But her intent is what we need to read. She said we are to "Stand strong and immovable". I think that was the most important part of her lesson. Not the three times she actually used the term "best".

    Fifth: She cannot possibly be the only General Authority to cause concern/contention/dissent. If our leaders all told us what we wanted to hear all the time, we'd all end up in Hell. :)

    Sixth: Regardless of the uproar over her rhetoric and choice of words, she is powerful. Like Todd, I'm excited to see where the RS is headed under her direction.
    posted by Blogger Cheryl at 10/08/2007 12:27:00 PM  

  • I have to say that this has made me feel sick to my stomach. I know Sister Beck well, double-dated with her, watched her as a young mom, a YW leader and now as the RS Pres. It's taken her months to even get over her great feelings of inadequacy. Imagine reporting to, traveling with, and interpreting for the prophet every day!

    Her schedule is non-stop traveling around the world where she has met with thousands of women. It was her birthday on the day of the RS Conference and AFTER the conference, at 9 at night, her daughter from California baptized a child and blessed a new baby.

    Sister Beck had 10 people staying at her house the week she was preparing for this conference, with a few of the visitors sick. She's a normal, struggling LDS woman and mom who happens to have a call from God (over 6 million women) that she has to fulfill along with everything else.

    I know her talks go through extreme editing processes and she's even had some sent back(more than once) much to her chagrin, after feeling she spent much time and prayer on them. So this talk is what it was supposed to be.

    I'm sure she'd feel sad to hear the negativity, but not apologetic.

    So I say, as nicely as possible, to take the parts of the talk that will help you become a better person and quit focusing on the negative. It will get you nothing but darkness and we as LDS women need all of the light we can get to survive and help our families survive in this world.

    Sister Beck is a very enthusiastic person and is always encouraging people around her. Knowing her, I didn't feel this was an attempt to put us above everyone else but to remind us that we should be striving to be the best. It's like K GL telling you something that she's all excited about. You just wouldn't be offended because that is who she is.

    So she's saying, with the tools we have, we should be the best. Read the end of her talk where she quotes what Pres Hinckley has said about what he expects of us. If he was telling you that every day and you were in charge of the women in this church, wouldn't you pass the message on?

    Don't just do your best. Do your very best...

    I have read this blog from the beginning but never commented. I'm not your mom or sister Carrie. Not sure I'd recognize you on the street.

    But I do know that as a group you are an amazing bunch of young adults and you are the future leadership of our church and society.

    You can't change how something made you feel. But maybe you can examine it with a different perspective...one that will bring you peace and inspiration, not frustration.

    And for the record--I don't think Sister Beck is unauspicious at all. I think she's amazing.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 10/08/2007 12:55:00 PM  

  • Cheryl, because you took the time to come back and comment, I have responded to your every point. Not that I think we will ever see eye to eye on many gospel related subjects, but I do like to have a good conversation.

    First - Elder Oaks also used the words "best" and "better", but neither he nor Pres. Hinkley used them in a comparing and competitive way as Pres. Beck did. There is a big difference in my book. To say that she was using them to promote the same meaning is to conveniently gloss over what she actually did say.

    Second - You are right, C.S. Lewis was not a prophet, but he did think about things a lot and I appreciated his take on why Christians might not be the best and how Christ works in each of our lives, at all our differing levels. It is just some food for thought, not scripture and not the only thing I am hanging my position on.

    Third - I am still going to hold onto my hope that Pres. Beck did not mean what she meant in regards to her "best" language because you are right, it doesn't automatically mean that we have to compare ourselves with others, but that IS what she said and that is why I and others took it that way. Is that the only thing she said? Absolutely not and to throw our the baby with the bathwater would be a shame. But I am simply trying to figure out what I should personally do with the troubling aspects of her talk.

    Fourth: See point response to point #3. Stand strong and immovable was the most important part of her talk, but you cannot ignore her repeated use of "be the best" as a non-important part of her talk.

    Fifth: Once again, I have never once said I hated her talk because It was full of things I don't want to hear. I want to be filled with the spirit. I want to be closer to Christ. I want to be motivated to be a better woman. I want to feel energized to do the work to get there. I just keep wondering if she really thought including phrases like we should be the "best women in the world at families, relief and homemaking" was the best way to do this. And just because her talk did not have any negative effect on you personally because you don't think she meant it that way, or whatever, it doesn't mean we shouldn't care about the negative effect it has had on our sisters in the church and could have on our sisters outside of the church. I have to think there would have been a better way.

    Sixth: I'll say it again. I do like her power as well.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 10/08/2007 01:04:00 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by the author.
    posted by Blogger Kristen at 10/08/2007 01:17:00 PM  

  • Carrie, what do you want me to say? I already knew your opinion --you asked me to answer your questions. I did. It feels now like you want me to agree with you --at least I feel you want me to agree with you.

    When you said this: "it doesn't mean we shouldn't care about the negative effect it has had on our sisters in the church and could have on our sisters outside of the church"--it made me think about how many times the men are told to buck up and stop being losers (okay, in better terms than mine). But they never seem to get up in arms over it. If we are to claim equality, then perhaps we shouldn't claim to need special treatment in the "no offense" category...? (just a thought. I'm in no way claiming that my own pitiful self doesn't get offended easily. You know I can. :) )

    Last Anonymous --
    Why can't you use your real name? I hate seeing comments by anonymous people. Serioulsy, though, your comment was awesome. It was so nice to hear from someone that sees the behind-the-scenes and can remind us that General Authority or not, we all struggle.
    posted by Blogger Cheryl at 10/08/2007 01:24:00 PM  

  • And to the anonymous who is not my mom (I knew this before because I called my mom to talk to her about this and she was much more compassionate that the anon comment) - for the future, putting your name on a comment is much better than being anonymous.

    Thank you for your follow-up comment, is was far more generous than your first. I feel a little confused though at your point. It's nice to hear about the real person Pres. Beck and her struggles (I also can't imagine how many women would have loved to hear about and would have related to her chaotic life right around GC time).
    But are you saying to give her a break? Or that she meant every word she said? I appreciated the quote at the end of her talk. We have been given so much and I know I need to do better to utilize the gift of the gospel to help me be a better woman, but I simply cannot ignore the damage that the other parts of her talk have inflicted and could continue to inflict on women in the future.

    And from your description of Pres Beck, and what she "meant" in her talk, it seems like the negative connotation that has come from what I hope was just poor choice of words or some sort of corporate influence were completely unintentional and I think she would be apologetic for that. Even if it is just a handful of women who took it negatively (as Kristen says) and the majority of the women of the church loved it, I still think Pres. Beck would be more than just sad.

    Kristen, another point I want to make is that the negative influence competitive "best" language can bring is not just limited to the women who are having a hard time with Pres. Beck's talk, it includes the promotion of of "better than X" and "not as good Y" thinking that can be slowly destructive without us even knowing it. And this language definitely doesn't promote a feeling of community between us and many other churches and organizations who are also striving to build better families and provide relief.

    I'm glad you are able to blow it off to semantics, I can't. Probably because half the people are telling me she meant exactly what she said and the other half are telling me that's not what she meant. And either way, the damage has already been done - and not just to me.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 10/08/2007 01:53:00 PM  

  • Okay, I just read the talk and maybe it's not so great to read it after reading the blog b/c I was looking for all the "offensive" stuff and didn't really see it that way. But that's just me. I think every woman could take it differently depending on life experience, etc. Her wording didn't personally offend me or make me feel like other religions will be looking at us like we think we're better than they are, etc. And I think I'm pretty sensitive to how we are perceived by others being the only member amongst all of my family and most of my friends. I kinda feel bad for some reason that she is getting so much criticism. I guess it's hard to be a woman leader in this world no matter what. It seems like they always have a harder path, and sometimes other women are the harshest critics. Maybe if you are struggling you could go back and read some of her other talks and get a better idea of who she is and the work she has done in the past. That might help get some perspective on her meaning in this particular talk. Just an idea.
    posted by Blogger Beth at 10/08/2007 02:10:00 PM  

  • Rocket Girl,
    Motherhood is a process, at least it has been for me. Developing a mother heart is I think a gift. It's something we can pray for, work for, hope for. I have been a mother for almost 9 years, and it's still a process for me. Talks like Sister Beck's help me focus more and figure out how the Lord wants us as women to be better. If we put our hearts into it, I believe God will bless us. He has blessed me, and my heart continues to become more like the kind of mother I think God wants me to be.

    So, my point is not to be discouraged if it all isn't just falling on you like fairy dust. Anything worthwhile will take effort, focus, sacrifice and faith. Motherhood is one of those things. I think there are women for whom it comes naturally, but I think for many of us, it's a choice and a process, just like any other part of our covenant growth.
    posted by Blogger M&M at 10/08/2007 02:49:00 PM  

  • Bren and I just discussed:

    1. Who's the Best?

    the amish. Duh.

    2. Does it Matter?

    Probably. I mean they don't even use electricity, right? They're doing a lot better than us at saving the Earth. We got to step it up a notch. :)
    posted by Blogger tamrobot at 10/08/2007 03:45:00 PM  

  • Tamrobot, love it. Couldn't agree more :)
    posted by Blogger Chloe at 10/08/2007 03:48:00 PM  

  • I will copy my MMW comment here, because it's very appropriate in this context.

    My main issue was with her word “best”.

    “Latter-Day-Saint women should be the best homemakers in the world.”

    Compared to whom? Non-LDS women? LDS men? I always thought comparisons bred pride, and pride is quite the sin, as we well know.

    Maybe she didn’t mean it to breed a comparison, but to me that word “best” does exactly that. It would be different for me if she had LDS women should be “great” homemakers. But to be the “best” homemakers? When homemaking is nurturing, but that it also includes cooking and washing? I will never be the “best” at these things. Martha Stewart outshines me every time (and only Martha. I’m damn close to being the best.)

    I will be the “best” at loving my children, possibly. But I cannot tell you for absolute certain that I love them more than their father does, or more than their grandparents, aunts, and uncles do. And I never, ever, want that to be a competition.

    It’s quite possibly my issue than I connect best with competition. I can accept that, and do the best I can. But doing the best I can, and being the best one in the world are two very different things. I really do think she used poor phrasing there.
    posted by Blogger The Wiz at 10/08/2007 04:00:00 PM  

  • but I simply cannot ignore the damage that the other parts of her talk have inflicted and could continue to inflict on women in the future.

    Is it really fair to suggest that the 'damage' that you claim has been 'inflicted' is Sister Beck's fault? What of the responsibility we each have to respond in charity and to seek God's help to sort through our feelings of inadequacy, pain or whatever else? And is it any of our jobs to somehow try to suggest what she 'should' have done or said? This kind of approach strikes me as inappropriate. Why not help each other process what has been said rather than suggesting that we think she did it wrong and being critical of her?

    I think Sister Beck deserves respect and benefit of the doubt and trust. Do we really think she is out to deliberately inflict paralyzing pain? And yet, I trust that this is the message the Lord would have us hear now. The Spirit can help us discern what she really meant (not necessarily what we think she said and what we interpret through our own lenses and filters) and help us know what we can do to improve, because we all can always improve.

    There was something I heard that stung a bit when I first heard it, but the Spirit is helping me process what I heard and realize the great, great opportunity that is there to make my home and family life better -- and to bring me closer to God in my mothering. There are gems of deep wisdom in this talk and the one from last week. I fear that if we REact in fear and defensiveness and insecurity rather than ACT in faith and humility, we might miss some of the blessings God would have us enjoy.
    posted by Blogger M&M at 10/08/2007 04:11:00 PM  

  • As to the whole 'best' thing, one of the ways I see it as a sort of "unto whom much is given, much is expected." We have the doctrine that teaches us about these things in a way that the world may not understand. Service and family are important to many in the world, and we rejoice in the good that others do, but we shouldn't be doing things just because they are good things that many others do. We should be doing things because we understand our eternal purposes, mission, and destiny as individuals, families and covenant church members. We are bound by covenant to do these things. No one in the world can say that. That should mean something to us -- not as a competition factor, but as a stewardship factor. She's inviting us to be lights and to respond to the light we have by virtue of our covenants. That is the way I am taking what she said.
    posted by Blogger M&M at 10/08/2007 04:15:00 PM  

  • "best women in the world at families, relief and homemaking"

    This is the offensive remark? I hope she means every word.

    Some of the best moms i know are not members of the church. Can you deny that those women wouldn't be even better armed with the gospel? Go share it with them.

    We are all very blessed to have the gospel and where much is given much is required. Be the example. There is nothing negative or competitive about it. Go be your best.
    posted by Blogger embot at 10/08/2007 04:20:00 PM  

  • ~sigh~ (of relief)

    And once again, m&m takes what I am thinking and feeling and puts them into the most beautiful words that I could never imagine to write. I wish, honestly, m&m, that I could have your gift. Thank you for writing what you did. I agree with you completely. (You, too, embot).

    You and bren are the best. :)
    posted by Blogger Cheryl at 10/08/2007 04:49:00 PM  

  • P.S. carrie? I love you, too, you know...
    posted by Blogger Cheryl at 10/08/2007 04:50:00 PM  

  • Do I think she intended something a little bit different from what she actually said? yes.

    Do I think words are REALLY powerful, and the more specific the better? yes.

    So, like several said, we must rely on the spirit...and beth, I liked your comments too.

    It's been real ladies...keep it that way.
    posted by Blogger Kage at 10/08/2007 07:12:00 PM  

  • I have been reading these comments, and the overwhelming feeling I have is sadness. What I took as an inspiring general relief society mtg, and amazing conference weekend has been reduced to negative ramblings and petty word picking. I felt the spirit was with her when she spoke, and it was inspiring. I will take those feelings with me, and feel sorry that you had such a radically different experience. All of this "obsesssion" over wording must have spoiled a fabulous conference weekend for you - again, I am so sorry.
    posted by Anonymous lisa at 10/08/2007 07:55:00 PM  

  • seriously sooooooo disappointed to read a woman CALLED BY GOD getting torn up. Seems sooooo silly actually, M&M is so dang right on and it's unfortunate we choose to rip on someones GC address. And, BTW, who says you need to use names and not an anonymous in the world of blogging. It's just as much my right to do that as it is yours to post this.....
    posted by Anonymous a diff anonymous :) at 10/08/2007 08:41:00 PM  

  • Prepare yourself - this is a long one.

    Wiz- thanks for your comments. I am even okay with the use of best in many other instances - Elder Oaks talk, the quote from Pres. Hinkley. Their intent was clear to mean "choose the best" and "be your best". When you add "best in the world" or "better than anyone else" is when it's hard to read anything but intended comparison.

    m&m - to your first point, I do believe we need to be personally responsible for offenses, whether we are the offender or the "offendee". But I am not just talking about the offended here. If you reread my post, I list a myriad of reasons why the language she used was troubling. And I really don't think I have been overly critical. Have people on the bloggernacle as a whole been overly critical? I think so. I feel like people are projecting other people's criticism's of Pres. Beck (at other sites) onto my words because most of the comments here do not show that my original post was very carefully read and refer to things that I never said. And I will say it again - I am talking about her talk at the RS general conference not her talk from sunday morning

    I do not think Pres. Beck would deliberately inflict paralyzing pain. And I have stated this before. But I do take all of her words very seriously. She did talk about improvement and being the best we can and I totally agree with all of it. But she also said more and I'm not ready to glaze over that more even though it is troubling for me.

    m&m - And for your second comment, I wholeheartedly agree and I hope you get the chance to teach Pres. Beck's talk in RS.

    embot - I don't think it's an offensive remark (although I think other women might have been offended). I just wholeheartedly believe that taken literally, it is not a healthy or even true goal for women to set. I do believe that thinking this way (literally) can be damaging whether we know it or not.

    unless you choose to interpret it like this:
    "Some of the best moms i know are not members of the church. Can you deny that those women wouldn't be even better armed with the gospel? Go share it with them.

    We are all very blessed to have the gospel and where much is given much is required. Be the example. There is nothing negative or competitive about it. Go be your best."

    That type of thinking is right on track. You go girl. But Pres. Beck went further than that.

    Cheryl - I know you love me. You're one of the only ones who actually decided to engage in the actual conversation going on here instead of continuing to pack on me what you want to say on the threads thats are spinning out of control. And I agree with embot too (at least the last part). Imagine that.

    Kage - words are powerful and I take them seriously. And as much as everyone here might not believe it, I do feel like the spirit has directed me to and guided me through this journey of thought.

    lisa - Please, please, please don't feel sorry for me. There are many more people out there that deserve your passive aggressive "sympathy" more than me. And to say that I have reduced my entire GC experience to negative ramblings and petty word picking is simply not true. What you call wording "obsession" is what I call taking words that are spoken over the pulpit seriously and this has in no way spoiled my conference weekend. It was actually one of the best I've had in a long time because my spirit wasn't just fed warm fuzzies, but my mind was also given some challenging things to think about and discuss with my friends, family and husband too. And that is how I learn and grow in the gospel. It's okay if you don't work that way, but don't feel sad that I do. It really is a wonderful way to learn.

    And finally, :) anon - Once again, I am talking about her RS conference address - there are a lot of other threads where people are ripping on her GC address. And I don't really think I am ripping on her. I am sure she is a great person but I think she used some unfortunate language that I hope I never hear in a gospel setting again. And I am not talking about being better, being our best, improving, being an example, more perfectly living up to our covenants, making family, faith and relief be priorities in our lives. These are all great points that we all need to be reminded of continuously.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 10/08/2007 10:05:00 PM  

  • But she also said more and I'm not ready to glaze over that more even though it is troubling for me.

    I guess my question is why not? What do you hope to gain by 'not glazing over' what she has said? And is a public forum the place to do it, and is it really our place to do something like this? And if others don't agree with your interpretation, isn't it possible that it's your interpretation that is off, not the language itself?

    I'm asking honest questions, not trying to be nasty or mean or flippant. I am honestly flummoxed with what has happened, here in this post and elsewhere. And perhaps some of it is that I was surprised to find such vehemence at this blog (seeing it at fmh wasn't such a surprise, because that happens regularly over there).

    I don't expect you to answer for anyone else, but I really would be interested in understanding what you hope will be gained by what you have undertaken here.

    If someone has an issue with something that is said, I understand sorting through and struggling with it. That's part of the process of Conference and other counsel we receive, locally and generally. But I think that should be done privately, quietly, and with the Lord most of all, not taking it to a public forum. (Not saying you haven't done the former, but then why the latter?) It just strikes me as wholly inappropriate, and potentially harmful in its own right (even IF the criticism might be right -- not saying that is here).
    posted by Blogger M&M at 10/08/2007 10:39:00 PM  

  • The problem here (for me) is that she didn't say be the best you can. She said be the best in the world.

    The two are strikingly different in my book.

    I acknowledge that I can do better, be better, be stronger, etc. I can welcome a conference talk that tells me to get off my butt and kicks me around for being unrighteous.

    But being the best in the world means you have to be better than everyone else, and that breeds pride. And when you see people doing a (perceived) "better" job than you, it breeds guilt.

    Her phrasing was just plain bad. She needed a different word, period. And she used that word OVER and OVER and OVER. She really wanted it to hit home.
    posted by Blogger The Wiz at 10/09/2007 12:26:00 AM  

  • I like checking your blogs and I just wanted to add my two cents, even though I've seen a few people express how I felt. This isn't JUST directed at TFTCarrie's main post (sorry if I go off).
    I agree that it's nice to hear a general RS Pres give a talk that isn't just a "you're doing great" talk. To me, those pats on the back don't really point me in the direction I want to go. It's nice to be complimented, but we all need some motivation once in a while. To me, "we should be the best" doesn't mean we have to compete with others outside of the Church, or even within the Church. My Best is not your best....you don't deal with my family, live in my city, have our income (or lack thereof...:)....etc. My best way to discipline might not be yours. My best way to study the sciptures might also be different.
    I think it's hard on people, sensitive (and attentive) women in the church especially, to hear talks like this and not get discouraged. I totally agree on that one. But...the way we take in a talk is up to us. When we're given direction to be better, does it make us mad/hurt, or motivate us to do better? None of us can be perfect and I think the problem when we hear talks like this, is that we end up receiving the message "get it together and become flawless and better than everyone else NOW" which is an entirely different message than the one which the speaker presented.
    Pres Beck's talk, along with the talk Elder Oaks gave really just made me think about priorities; "the best" way to spend our time. I thought about what my husband told me about Priesthood session, that as the bar has been raised in missionary work, the missionaries should not just meet the bar, but exceed it. Don't be satisfied with just doing the requirements, be even better. Have you ever realized how often the men hear the "you're doing great just the way you are" talk in Pristhood?! Rarely, if ever! The talks they get are a real swift kick in the butt for them. It's nice that we got some of that too. It's motivation, not discouragement.
    We should be the best because of how much we know. We receive lessons every week, we (should) study the scriptures every day, pray....etc. Where much is given much is required. With everything we have to do, our responsibilities as mothers and wives, whether working in or outside of the home, adding "the best" to that just makes me want to take a nice long nap. This challenge can be overwhelming sometimes without the proper perspective.
    When I heard this talk, and her talk from Sunday at conference (I've kind of blended the thoughts together, sorry), I think about how heavily we MUST rely on the Lord in order to be the best. It isn't just a good idea, it is vital for our becoming "the best." I think that's the message that was unspoken in her talks. How can we be the best without Jesus Christ? If this talk is discouraging to some, that's probably why. I would be realy discouraged if I thought I had to do it all on my own too. That's where Elder Oaks' talk perfectly blends with this on doing the best things with our time; doing things that draw us closer to Christ. When we do what is really important FIRST(strengthening our faith and the faith of those around us, mainly our families), HE makes up the difference. We are not working alone.
    So before we worry too much about whether we're the best at having a clean tidy house, or the best cook, or the best organizer, we should first evaluate whether we are OUR personal best at being a disciple of Christ. Heavenly Father doesn't grade on a curve.
    posted by Blogger Sarah at 10/09/2007 12:42:00 AM  

  • Now that I realize I am indeed not an ultra commenter (come on laugh! ladies :))

    I propose we delete this whole entry.

    Every single blasted comment.

    It definitely boils blood with everyone...too much.

    Just a meager tales reader, but that is my suggestion.
    posted by Blogger Shake Your Booty Bossy Lady at 10/09/2007 09:45:00 AM  

  • M&M- Why not glaze over words that she specifically used over and over again in her talk? Why should I? I think we should listen to the words spoken over the pulpit closely (and read the words from the scriptures closely and listen to the words in the temple closely for that matter) so that we make sure we are gaining a full understanding of what is being presented to us. As for poor interpretation of her words, I do think that is happening all over the place and it is a shame. People are saying that she is saying things that she did not say. All I am saying here is "these are the actual words that she said and did she mean to say them?" Did she deliberately use words that mean more that just "be your best?"

    And why can't we discuss the meaning of her words in a public forum? Reading back through the comments, I feel like at the very least, each person who read this was challenged to go back through her talk (either with another read, or a first read) and re-look at their own thoughts on what was said. Many women then shared those feelings and I think all those things are really great. Discussion (especially challenging discussion) forces your to keep thinking about what you just learned.

    I think another point that was brought out in this discussion was that it is okay to listen to her talk and not take away from it that we literally should be better than everyone else. And just because you didn't hear that, doesn't mean that other women didn't and they are wondering what exactly to do with that charge.

    I also realize this type of discussion just upsets some people and they cannot get anything good out of it and for that reason, maybe I should have added a warning at the beginning of the post so they could have had a choice to walk away.

    I think another interesting point this discussion brought up was how we all treat words spoken form the pulpit. And I think it forced people to ask themselves how they internalize talks from church leaders. Some go for overall feeling, some are fine with overlooking some words and taking what they feel is right for them at the time, and some listen intently to the words and question their meaning.

    I am sorry that you were surprised to see this post here. I know we are usually more fluffy than this, but we have always presented ourselves as a group of women with diverse thoughts and talents who enjoy sharing those things with each other. Do I speak for everyone at Tales? Of course not and they know that. And if I wanted everyone to pat me on the back I would have tried to post this piece elsewhere. At Tales, I knew I would get a variety of thoughts shot back to me, and I wanted that (although I wish I didn't have to repeat myself so much and that people actually responded to me rather than to the collective poor reactions found on the entire bloggernacle.

    And shake you booty girl - I am definitely not going to delete this post, but if you feel you want to delete your own comments, that is your choice. But I am going to close comments.

    Thank you everyone for your thoughts.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 10/09/2007 09:54:00 AM  

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