Mormon Girl Asks: Do you have a plan?

Readers, sorry for the interruption in your regularly scheduled AMG programming.

My father died at the end of June, and we buried him yesterday.

Although his death came at the end of a long illness, I find myself heartbroken and bereft of ready insight.

I do have three questions, though, that I’d love to hear you all reflect on.

Do you have concrete goals for your life and a plan of how to achieve them?

As one of my sisters was eulogizing Dad, she made an important observation:  that he was a man who planned his life.  Many of the good things that came to him did not arrive by accident.  He carefully planned his goals, checked and rechecked his progress, adjusted plans, and realized many of them.

I too am a planner by nature, but his death makes me want to live life with more care and forethought.

Dad was a terrific mentor of young men. The LDS Church gave him tremendous opportunities to mentor, and he touched many lives in that way.  I know he taught—harangued, hectored–many young Mormon men to sit down and map out their goals and plan how to achieve them.

I get the sense that a lot of young women aren’t being taught to sit down and map out a life plan, including financial, education, and spiritual goals and a plan for achieving them.  I see it too in full-grown and older women.  I know that life often does not go according to plan, and that much depends upon privilege—economic, gender, racial—for reaching desired life outcomes.  Still, I’m wondering if anyone is sitting down with young women these days and saying, “Who you are is up to you.  What plans are you making to make your life happen?”

Did anyone teach you to plan?  Are you teaching your kids to plan?

Taking this to a larger scale, I’ve also been reflecting on the state of Mormon feminism.  As a movement, we are stronger than ever, but I think somewhere in the swirl of Facebook posts we lose sight of the need to own this movement and its agenda.  That will take planning.  And execution.  So here’s a third question, for those of you invested in Mormon feminism—as I know many AMG readers are:

If you could set goals for Mormon feminism and a plan for how to achieve them, what would they be?

Three questions, readers.  I’m listening.  With a broken heart.

Send your queries to askmormongirl@gmail.com, or follow @askmormongirl on Twitter.

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44 Comments

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44 responses to “Mormon Girl Asks: Do you have a plan?

  1. RachelJL

    I’m very sorry for your loss. As common and trite as that may sound, I don’t feel like I’m great with words, but I do mean it. My mother passed away when I was young, and my father is now 83 years old and I just hope he’ll hang around as long as possible!

    As for planning? I guess I’ve been fortunate in that I grew up in a hard-working family who was (and is) constantly planning for the future. By the age of twelve I already had most of my life planned out. Of course, with long-term plans, things usually change. In college I was the one who helped my roommates pick out their classes and figure out what to take so they’d graduate on time, but then after my mission (which I’d insisted on from a young age), I came home with health issues that have persisted for almost two decades.

    A big downfall in my family has been perfectionism. When taken as a goal for reaching excellence, perfectionism can be helpful. When used as a tool to tell myself on a regular basis that I’ll never quite measure up, it’s a huge hindrance to almost all worthy plans in life and the ability to find perhaps what goals would serve me better than the ones that are unrealistic and unnecessary. But as someone who is somewhat obsessed with what I can do better, and if I’m going where I “need” to be going, the twin goals of doing all I can and being patient with myself and others along the way will always be ongoing.

    As for Mormon feminism, I’m not sure. I have to admit that I’m not worried about not having the priesthood. Also, until I went away to college, I didn’t really come across many problems with being female in the church. It wasn’t until college that I heard of friends whose fathers had discouraged them from becoming pre-med because it wasn’t “mom-friendly” and other such things. When I run across Priesthood leaders who aren’t used to women who aren’t shy about sharing their opinions, I try to be patient about it. I figure that the most important thing I can do is learn to be patient and prayerfully decide what I can do to help other girls and women have more opportunities than women in the past did. I really think I’ve been lucky/blessed.

    • i love this line: When I run across Priesthood leaders who aren’t used to women who aren’t shy about sharing their opinions, I try to be patient about it.
      i tend to get frustrated, and i know that doesn’t help anyone. that is such a Christ like attitude to have – as you stated. thank you!!

  2. Paul

    Joanna,

    I am truly sorry for your loss. I lost my father a year and a half ago. My father’s death was like your father’s, after a prolonged illness and so expected. Still there is loss and confusion. There is great comfort for me that he had a whole life, a great family, a fair dose of struggle, a good share of triumphant experience, personal growth, and time for healing. A whole life.

    I was trained to plan my life. I broke with that path and my life looks little like anyone in my family. I dove headlong into the unknown. I am struggling right now, to my core. But I am propelled by the mystery and magic that have become my people, my travels, my life. I am living a life that I truly never knew anyone could live. I don’t want to create a sense that I am capricious or simply given to indulgences. I am introspective. I rehearse possibilities, and choose next steps. But my life has truly transcended my expectations. My faith leaves me to choose things that lead to uncertainty, but a sort of uncertainty that drives me, feeds me. There are risks and sometimes I get the down side of a risk. I fail. But I learned some time ago that I am more at peace with my life with my failures. I regret more things I have not done than anything that I have done. Even if I never fix the problems I am facing right now–some looming pragmatic needs–I will happily say that my life is a life well lived.

    Feminism is an interesting notion. I think of a simple pair of approaches to parenting–one school takes care of children, protects them and guides them. The other prepares children to care for themselves, allowing decisions and decreasing guidance and developing challenges and independence. There is no question where my prejudices reside. I participated in feminist clubs both at BYU as an undergrad, and elsewhere in grad school. Somewhere along the way I realized that feminism has to be a temporary approach. If my focus always demands attention to gender, it becomes the very problem it is trying to solve.

    I have privilege because I am caucasian, male and educated. In some circumstances my demographic works against me–I am queer, short, middle aged, nerdy and visibly from the wrong side of the tracks. But I can’t give power to another demographic no matter how conscientious or supportive I try to be. Empowerment is nurtured, experienced.

    I teach. The best I have to offer young women is to challenge them to the same degree I would a young man. We are socialized to assume that women will struggle to have careers, to take their ambitious seriously. We forget that men sell their lives for jobs they hate. We forget that struggle and growth are inseparable.

    I don’t have feminist goals, but I am in awe of my inheritance. I regale my friends with stories about the relief society from times when they provided undertaker services for families otherwise left without, when they trained themselves to provide medical attention, and they made real decisions regarding the welfare and economy of the community. Polygamy is a system fraught with controversy, confusion and its own special history of abuses and excesses, but our Mormon heritage produced a wealth of kick-ass women. I think that we owe it to young women to teach them that their best place within a family is to become a whole persons in the world. Not always to serve–but to lead, to re-think, to dream, to change, and aspire.

    • Rebecca

      @ Paul…I would encourage you to add “writer” to your descriptions of yourself. Wow! What an eloquent and beautiful summary of the three questions posed. I’m anticipating reading a novel written by you!

    • Sandra

      Paul, that was beautiful. I’m just stumbling upon this blog in my search to reconcile my thoughts and feelings regarding the fact that the gospel I know and love doesn’t always line up with what I feel and the torment it is causing me. What a wonderful thought to remember that ” our Mormon heritage produced a wealth of kick-ass women. I think that we owe it to young women to teach them that their best place within a family is to become a whole persons in the world.” I hope to teach my 3 daughters this and strive myself to be one of those women.

  3. Kris

    Joanna,

    I am heartbroken for you right now, as I know how you feel with the loss of your Dad. I was where you are, a couple of years ago, with both of my parents, and the loss was hard and tangible even if you knew it was coming. Your father sounds like a wonderful man, and I’m sure that you and your family are feeling a very large void.

    The questions that you have asked are poignant to me, as I have been asking them [in some way] ever since my parents passed on. When my parents died, my husband lost loved ones a few months beforehand. We spent many hours reflecting on all of their lives, and trying to learn from what they had taught us. One of the first things was how we intended to lead different lives, now, based on the examples of those who had gone before. This contributed to taking stock of our relationship with the church, taking stock in our health, and planning for the future so that we could look back on our lives without regret. Our plans and goals for the future — to make sure that those around us knew that we loved them, to become as educated as possible, and to not waste time doing unnecessary things. This may not be concrete, and some of the things (education goals) have to be delayed because other parents have failing health and need taking care of. But this is the answer to the first question.

    As far as someone teaching me to plan — that didn’t happen to a large degree. I had great parents, but I came from a time when girls didn’t have huge expectations beyond motherhood, so no, there were not large plans made. This is changing, as I have to plan now so that I can have future educational goals fulfilled. My husband and I, however, have taught our children to plan — they may say we do so obsessively! We are very concerned with our daughter’s plan in life, and that it be a fulfilling one for her and that it she reaches her goals in life as well as has a marriage and family.

    As far as my goals for Mormon feminism — this is an important question, and one I spend a lot of time thinking about. My daughter has been raised, in the church, in a strong, active, Mormon family, to consider WORK as a part of her plan. She loves children, wants to get married, but WORK will still be a part of plan. She gets some grief about this at church — as she has been told, and continues to be told that WORK should be secondary to her role as mother. I disagree. She disagrees. My goal for Mormon feminism is to make sure that my daughter has the opportunities in life that I failed to take advantage of, in a misguided attempt to do what is “right” according to outside influences, rather than doing what was “right” according to my own internal outlook. I have no doubt that my daughter will be successful in this endeavor, and that she will be HAPPY.

    At church, the above goal is still, to this day, not looked upon fondly. Yes, things are changing, but still at a very slow rate. My daughter, at 21, spent the last week at girl’s camp, where the women there are still answering the girl’s questions about life, motherhood, and work as the women answered them 20 to 50 years ago. She was alone in her efforts to let the girls know that they can go to college and actually USE THEIR DEGREE in a job. That they can be a 50/50 partner in a marriage. That they can still be a righteous daughter of their father in heaven and work outside of the home, should they choose to do so. The problem with making this choice is that as a woman, you still, to this day, have to disregard church influences that would have you always choose to be a stay-at-home Mom. You have to be strong enough to smile, but calmly say “No, that’s not for me and my family.” You have to be strong in your conviction that, in that particular endeavor, you will not be influenced away from your goal of marriage, family, AND work. Hopefully, if enough young women do this, things will change over time.

    • alma

      I don’t in anyway consider myself to be a femanist, I guess if I had to label myself I would be a tradtionalist. I don’t not judge a women for her choice to work or stay at home, I feel each job has it’s own challenges. Sometimes I think it is harder to be a stay at home mom. I would consider myself lucky, I grew up in the church, was raised by a working mother who tried her hardest at balancing both not by choice but because of necessity. I was raised to think, plan my life and not to depend on another person. From an early age I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up, I also knew I wanted to go on a mission. My plan did not include marriage or children, although for my sisters it did. They even had names picked out for their children. Life sometimes does not turn out the way you think it should, I was the first to marry, I grew up to be what I wanted and I served an honorable mission. Now as a mother of two boys, I work part time and stay at home the rest of the time and I would not have it any other way. I have enjoyed the one on one time with each of my boys,we have done mommy and me, I have gone on field trips and volunteered in classrooms. Life goes by to fast that I cherish those moments with them. I can never make them be one again. Other school moms not of our faith have told me I would trade you life for mine to be able to spend time with them.
      I am not to sure that it is a cultural thing with in the church or an American ideal to be a stay at home mom. I personally think it is personal thing. Boy or girl each should be taught to clean, cook and plan . I feel, that it is a personal desicion to work or stay home given the circumstance and cost of child care. My husband and I did not want our children to be raised or influenced by other before we had the chance to.
      I think it must feel right, I think as a girl you must get all the education you can, and then between you and your spouse with consideration from above decide what is best for you and your family.

  4. I’m so very sorry for your loss, Joanna. I’m terrified of burying my dad one day.
    As for plans- my mom, though far from identifying as a feminist, did a wonderful job of teaching us to plan. I think because she found herself a single divorced mom in the late 70s, (before she met and married my dad) brand new to mormonism, she taught us to never count on marriage as our only plan. I can’t tell you how many times she said “if only someone had told me about financial planning when I was young…” And I’m glad, since my Plan A was to marry someone who could support us so I could be a SAHM…. yet I find myself living Plan B, working fulltime while my husband is a stay at home dad. I’m SO grateful Plan B was an option that we had the resources/education/background for (and, surprise, suits us both so very well).
    I would have loved to have my Plan B presented as an acceptable Plan A. Instead of “if you need to work someday” or “if your husband dies and leaves you and the kids alone…” how about a “if you want to have a career someday”. While I was prepared to work and financially run a household “just in case”, I was never prepared to have an intentional CAREER, so I find myself learning as I go.
    As for Mormon Feminism in general, I would love for feminism to not be a bad word. I would love for mormon women everywhere to realize that at least some part of them is right in line with the goals of self-identifying feminists. I would love to see us teach our daughters that they are worthy and powerful, all on their own, not because of their premortal roots or their divine eternal potential, and not because they are a wife waiting for a husband and a mother waiting for children, but because of who they are, on their own, right now. I don’t know how to achieve this aside from with my own daughter, unless I can commandeer a local YW class.

    • Danalee

      Jennifer
      I have never thought of it this way… but your comment ” I would love to see us teach our daughters that they are worthy and powerful, all on their own, not because of their premortal roots or their divine eternal potential, and not because they are a wife waiting for a husband and a mother waiting for children, but because of who they are, on their own, right now” is so meaningful to me as I have just recently found my worth outside of those things! I have had a hard time articulating it, but have bemoaned that the concept of “individual worth” in YW did nothing for me actually valuing myself! It feels so hollow and vacant to me now that I know and feel what it means to really know I am “powerful and worthy all on my own.” There needs to be so much more vocabulary and conversation about listening to your feelings, forming your own opinions and knowing yourself in our faith community. I do believe there is good and good intention in teaching that we are “children of God” etc but its almost like someone was afraid there was no other reason to have good self worth/concept so they better teach the children this incessantly or else they may not have any esteem of themselves whatsoever. They focused on this additional bit of knowledge adding to self worth so much they forgot to teach us all the other reasons we are valuable. It makes me sad because it feels like individuality is the part that is getting left out.
      I am so happy that you are teaching your daughter so well!
      best of luck
      D

  5. FIRST of all. I love your blog and I really enjoy reading the topics here. Don’t feel down, I’m sorry for your dad it’s really a huge pain to lose someone that we love so much, however you’re just a little bit far from him in a way you cannot see him and enjoy his company as you used to be, but he’s still there and you can feel his presence as you seek for it!
    As I served a full time mission I learned that when we are far away from our loved ones, more we grow. So, enjoy your growing possibilities, you have a million dreams to go! And you will meet them all as your journey finish!
    Answering the queries: Yes, I do have plans. But as much as I plan my life more I feel I need to learn! The interesting thing I believe is that I NEED TO LEARN HOW TO PLAN EVERY SINGLE DAY, planning long-term goals now it’s easier for me but creating the way here and today that will prepare myself to achieve these long-term goals its where I fail :(
    well I enjoyed reading this article, it helped me to REMEMBER! Because this is the point, I need to put more passion in the areas I’m planning because we don’t use to forget something we love right?!
    Well, as I’m single and never married I don’t have any kids but I learned a lot how to plan as I served a full time mission, and even today I learn how to plan in the scriptures, I just need to plan carefully my goals and think more about my present instead of only fix my eyes in the future and keep dreaming as a teenager!!!!!!
    I think the best way to plan is 1- think about where you are and where you want to go (or achieve), then 2- establish concrete goals (short term or long term goals) and finally 3- START living in a way you can achieve then, what for me means living your goals daily!
    (this is the stage I’m failing)…
    That’s it, sorry for my crazy English I hope you can understand it ;-)

  6. Dale

    Dear Joanna,
    I am neither a woman nor a Mormon. Nevertheless, I enjoy listening to you. Yes, I even look forward to your posts, and have missed them.
    While I reflect on your questions, I have one of my own. Why do girls apologize when no apology is necessary?
    Let me offer my heartfelt sympathy to you. I am so very sorry for your loss.
    It has now been 45 years since my own father died. I was a high school kid of 16. In time I learned to live with my broken heart and found that I can even enjoy life again. Our Father in heaven comforts me.
    May the God of all comfort comfort you.
    Listening to and for your voice, Dale

  7. Dear Joanna,

    I’m so sorry to hear about your broken heart and the death of your father. May you be comforted during your time of grief in knowing you are loved by your Heavenly Father, friends, family, and fellow church members.

    As far as young women having a plan, I was really touched by your letter because yesterday I picked up my hometown newspaper and saw that one of my favorite English professors at BYU, Joyce Nelson, died of pancreatic cancer. She was an incredibly intelligent and compassionate woman who inspired me to want to be my best self and make a difference in the world. I have been thinking a lot about how my life turned out since graduating from BYU a decade ago, and whether she would be proud of me.

    In college I remember making long lists of hilariously unfocused but ambitious goals, ranging from getting a PhD in Biology to brokering Mideast peace.

    I had a great opportunity to work as an English teacher for a few years after graduation, but I never made it to graduate school. I got married and had three babies instead. I do not regret for one instant putting aside my career ambitions to start a family. However, some advice from Facebook executive Sheryl Sandburg really touched me, and I really took it to heart, and it’s the advice I would pass on to my daughters: Don’t leave until you’re gone. I didn’t have my first child until I was 27 years old. I’m so grateful I had the chance to earn a bachelor’s degree, intern in Washington DC, study in the Middle East and work full-time before taking on the intense responsibilities, privileges, and blessings of full-time homemaking. However, I still think there is SO much more I could have done in that decade, if I hadn’t been sort of dawdling, and waiting around to see what would happen in my life before taking any big steps.

    So, what you say about LDS women making goals later in life really gives me hope. I have a whole lifetime ahead of me still, I hope. There’s nothing in this world that I want more than to raise happy, healthy children, and that will always be my first priority. But I believe the Lord has other work for me to do as well. I haven’t given up on my goals yet.

  8. Nancy R.

    I am a planner. Everything gets mapped out and scheduled. When I think of feminism and progressive change in the church, it is really hard to map and plan. I can encourage young women and women, support them the best I can. I’m a big believer in education and have a Ph. D. I can work to change attitudes in the church, but I cannot change it’s patriarchal structure. I don’t have the authority to do that.

    I would love to petition the church to seek new revelation on women and their relationship to the priesthood. I would love to know where exactly we stand and what change is possible. Do we have a little bit of priesthood without actually holding an office? Will we have the priesthood in the next life? The wording of temple ceremonies suggests that we will, and if it is an eternal principle, then can we have it now? I would love to petition the church to allow/facilitate open discussion on the meaning and message of temple ceremonies and on Heavenly Mother. But can I do that? Or, can I do any of that and not get excommunicated? Have women of the church ever tried to formally petition anything? Can we do that? Should we do that?

  9. Condolences. My goal for Mormon feminism would be that Mormon feminists come to terms with the fact that Mormonism and feminism are not reconcilable. The plan for achieving this goal is a frank discussion of polygamy, not as “old news,” but as the founding principle of Mormonism and the current expectation for the after-life. When Mormon women come to terms with the fact that exploitation of multiple women for club members’ sexual gratification was the most compelling benefit Joseph Smith offered converts to his Mormon club for male priests, they will reject their role as second-class servants, ineligible for equal membership in that club, and move forward on the path to self-awareness.

    • Kristie

      As one having lost both parents I know what a difficult time this is. Being a Mormon girl too I KNOW I will see my parents again and that this loss as hard as it is, is only temporary.

      This is my third visit to your site. The fisrt two times were a link from a blog and today you are trending on Facebook.

      I read the article on FB. I have also read several pages of your blog each time I have stopped by. I feel the need as a lifelong member of, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. To remind what you may have forgotten…When you refer to “the church” that is a blanket statement. “The church”. “The church” consists of imperfect people. All of us including me. I hold to The Gosple of Jesus Christ. That IS perfect.

      You posed the question of plans. My plan? My plan is to continue to show tolerance and love. To be a faithful woman of Christ. To try to serve and to
      teach and to love uncondtionally. To teach both my sons and daughters that great things await them as they navigate through their lives. Whether it be through education, marriage or raising their own families. They will have success. I have no doubt.

      I am sorry you have had experinces different then some. I feel respected, honored and cherished as a daughter of God. I have never felt any less. Together with my husband we have taught our children the same. I have also had the great privelage of teaching the children as well as the young women these same gospel, Christ centered truths.

      I hope you can find a true Christ centered peace in your “plan”. You deserve it. We all do.

    • Erin

      Polygamy was not a founding principal of Mormonism nor is it the current expectation for the after-life.

  10. Steve P

    Sorry to hear about your father’s death. Best wishes in moving forward. A life plan is a great idea, at least for those things you can plan.

  11. I found that my plan for life usually doesn’t fall inline with reality. I think my main struggle is accepting that reality isn’t going to happen the way I plan it. So many disappointments in my life are because I have certain expectations about my plans and goals. Namely, that they will all and must all happen.

    I lost my own father a few years ago and lately I’ve been thinking about his attitude toward life. Somehow, he was able to happily sacrifice his own daily goals and desires on a regular basis. Not only for his wife and children, but for neighbors, extended relatives, coworkers and ward members. I don’t know if he was able to realize all the life goals that he had. Maybe he was able to because he kept them simple and unselfish: spend time with his family and be able to provide for them, and serve, serve serve.

    I find that often times, when I sacrifice my own goals for others, I end up resenting that sacrifice. But, to do the opposite is to truly live the gospel, I believe.

    My mother taught us financial planning and for that I am grateful. My father taught us that life plans are not as important as God’s plan for us. The sooner I can adopt that attitude in my own life, the happier I will be.

  12. I’m also sorry for your loss and hope you know that your faithful readers can allow you time to grieve and will return again and again to this blog at whatever pace you post. Take as much time as you need and don’t feel like you owe us any apologies.

    I am definitely a planner in my own life but I am at a loss of how to plan and set goals for the Mormon Feminist movement. We feminists are not organized – how can we mobilize? I think what has to happen is the merger of the movement with Relief Society. RS is the largest women’s organization in the world; It should be the most powerful organization in the world. Are there enough of us feminists to inspire our sisters to action? I think there are, but a fight for the priesthood is not what all women want. I think what all Mormon women have in common is a desire for full participation and equal responsibility in the Lord’s work. The brethren administer life saving ordinances, the RS should save lives and administer to the poor and the needy. When there is a crisis of suffering somewhere in the world people plead for help from the Red Cross or the UN. Maybe the church has a presence through Humanitarian Aid – but what if those in distress first thought of the Relief Society, or better still if the RS thought of them. I lived in Ithaca NY during the floods that devastated Owego and it was not the RS that organized the relief effort – it was the Priesthood. It is time that we claimed and acted on the responsibility to bring relief. I was excited and inspired by the focus Sis. Beck put on our RS history because it is a powerful one. I hope our sisters all over the world are inspired to make RS what it was always meant to be – an equal companion to the Priesthood. This will mean demanding more responsibility and insisting on more autonomy to organize and administer relief efforts. What I want is to see Relief Society fulfill its destiny and embody pure religion.

  13. My thoughts are with you at your time of great loss. My mother died in ’85 and just the other day I was thinking how much I missed her. Your emotions will be on a roller coaster for about six weeks.
    I don’t think “goals” or “planning” was in my parents’ vocabulary. I was introduced to goals as a way to get the Duty to God award. Since the award’s activities weren’t anything that I was really interested in, the award was pretty meaningless and “goal” became a dirty four-letter word for me.
    Later in adulthood, I circulated with people involved in multi-level marketing (Amway). There they talked about living your dreams. With an alternative vocabulary, “goal” lost some of its negative connotation. I still have a hard time associating “goal” with anything I want that makes my life fulfilling.

  14. Rick

    I’m so srry for your loss. You mention you are “bereft of ready insight,” but I suggest your questions are full of insight. I appreciate your shareing and opening the discussion. I will preface my comments by sharing that I am a TBM Mormon, and male, so my comments will be colored by that – I’ll let you decide if it’s good or ill.
    On planning, it’s kind of funny, I am a planner, sort of. Let me explain. I think there’s two parts to planning. One is the day to day, put this step before that, and take this step next. I’ll admit to learning this the hard way – through trial and error. From Joanna’s comments about her father, I suspect he was involved in the Young Men program, and in particular Scouting (as a nearly 30-year leader of both, I recognize the “taught—harangued, hectored–many young Mormon men to sit down and map out their goals and plan how to achieve them” – that’s sounds like the best description I’ve ever heard of leaders working with boys to achieve their Scouting ranks). I didn’t gow up in the Church, so I can’t talk about any leader influence on me, but I did have some very good professors in college music and theater programs where I had great examples of planning events. Then in my early days as a youth leader, I seriously struggled with the lack of planning. Likewise, I was struggling with keeping up with all the demands on my time as a husband, father, soldier, Church member, youth leader. I studied Frankline and a few others and began to cobble through a personal program. It was actually through Scouting, though, where I made the breakthrough. I learned how to do an annual program plan, and then suddenly the examples I had and the other teaching all clicked into place. Since then, this type of planning has become a major part of my life and I spend a lot of time trying to pass it on. THis is pretty short term in general, though, and at most a couple of years. Beyond that is fantasy. Professionally, I’ve learned that as well. Detailed plans beyond a couple of years are pretty meaningless – there’s too much we don’t know now to plan that far in advance.
    The second part of planning is more of visioning. This has always been a part of me although I didn’t recognize it until much later. It’s the idea of the Grand Plan, the overal scheme of what you want your life to be. This guides how we decide how to live our lives. This is what governs our plans beyond the immediate detailed plans. I had these big dreams in college, and buried them and never thought about them, and realized a few years ago (I’m approaching my 50s) that I am actually getting really close to achievieng them without realizing I was even working toward them. These are the values of how you live your life, and I’m actually getting to the point they are entering in my detailed few year plan.
    As I mentioned before, I’m teaching it to my children witht he zeal oof the converted. In my own kids and others. As YM/Scouting leader I have plenty of opportunity. I wish this was happening more in these programs, but I feel like it’s pretty sporadic. As little as I feel like it happens in the Young Men programs, I never see it in the Young Women’s programs. It’s a real shame. I have 4 daugters, and have felt like 80% (or more) of mutual has been a waste of time. The sad part is there’s no reason for it. I think maybe the Scouting advancement program helps give the Young Men some structure, but I just don’t see any effort in the Young Women programs. In reality, I feel like the program should be valuable and enriching, preparing Young Women for life in all issues – even if your desire is to be a homemaker, learning career skills is valuable for women. As a very wise (male) college professor once said “They best gift you can give your grandchildren is a highly educated mother.” In any case, marriage and motherhood may not be in store for every Young Woman. Not to mention, they have plenty of time for more useless dust catching crafts when they enter Relief Society.
    On the last qestion, you may not lke my take, but I have a wife and four daugters, and this is important. I probably can’t say I buy into the concept of feminism as commonly described, but I do truly believe women should have every opportunity and preparation as men – I don’t believe there should be a difference. I think sometimes there is an attitude of the woman’s place in the home, but I think that is a limited reading of the Family Proclamation. I believe that the majority of the pioneer women were active participants in their lives and not sitting around painting “Believe” on wood blocks – they were side-by-side with their husbands carrying an equal if not greater load.
    But I do have to say that I believe if you have children, than a parent should be at home – male or female while kids are school age. In my family, it was my wife who chose to stay home. She wanted to, and I had a greater earning power due to interest and preparation.

  15. Mary Montanye

    Dear Joanna, I am not Mormon but follow you because I have many friends who are. I want to be a more conscientious, considerate and kind friend. You help me do that.

    Because I’m not Mormon I’m not answering your question as I don’t think it was directed to me. However, I feel moved to offer my condolences in regard to the loss of your father. As I remember from when I lost my own, it is a very difficult time. Be gentle with yourself. Allow yourself the time to grieve and remember. As you probably already suspect, he will always be with you … continuing to guide and comfort you. Even though I’m not particularly religious and don’t have strong beliefs about any afterlife, I have found this to be true of my own deceased father. May you be comforted by your friends and family, and by the knowledge that your dad taught you well. You are now mentoring many through your work, both Mormon and non-Mormon. For that, I am so grateful.

  16. Jennifer Divine

    I hear the sadness in your posting and my thoughts are with you at this time. I have included you in my morning prayer. As for your Dad, he sounded like a wonderful person. Im the back of my head I hear “God Be With You Til We Meet Again” for some reason and it made me smile to think you’ll be with your father again one day. :)

  17. Missy

    I feel inspired by this post and it makes me want to re plan what I want to really accomplish in my life. In my own feminist terms of planning, I want less complaining about what makes us (me) upset and more doing. More positive outlooks on who we are and what we are going to accomplish in the near future. I want to make…say Relief Society just that. A Society that relieves more people on a local level (not the once a year mass creation of school kits for people in far off countries or quilts, etc (not saying that’s bad nor should be discontinued) or fancy dinners for ourselves that we spend too much money and time on). I want RS get togethers to be full of action outside of church buildings and involved in communities and peoples lives that are not just LDS. Hmmm, I sounds like I’m complaining, maybe I’ll start planning something positive…now.

  18. Anonymous

    Hello, I feel like a broken record. But, I also am truly sorry for your loss. It sounds like you had a terrific Dad. In addition, it also seems like there are endless memories to always keep in your heart. Remember these wonderful and everlasting times and moments that can never be taken from you.. Cherish this special Parent you had. He has taught you wisely. I like the idea of planning ahead. Nothing wrong with setting goals. Yes, there will be detours.

    I may sound a bit passionate about my post, which I think I am. I have had a Father who is still alive today (He is 84) whom I don’t speak to any more. He hasn’t been the greatest Father. Instead of learning from wisdom and much thought (Like your Father) I have had to learn and live by his mistakes. What a difference hummm!! As you go through your mourning period, you will always have life long lessons. These lessons will help you into Adulthood (If not already there) and forever while we are all on this good Earth. Though this may sound harsh now, you are so very lucky to have had a decent, caring and thoughtful parent to have watched you through to present. The very best to you!!

  19. Anonymous

    It sounds like you had a terrific Dad. In addition, it also seems like there are endless memories to always keep in your heart. Remember these wonderful and everlasting times and moments that can never be taken from you.. Cherish this special Parent you had. He has taught you wisely. I like the idea of planning ahead. Nothing wrong with setting goals. Yes, there will be detours.

    I may sound a bit passionate about my post, which I think I am. I have had a Father who is still alive today (He is 84) whom I don’t speak to any more. He hasn’t been the greatest Father. Instead of learning from wisdom and much thought (Like your Father) I have had to learn and live by his mistakes. What a difference hummm!! As you go through your mourning period, you will always have life long lessons. These lessons will help you into Adulthood (If not already there) and forever while we are all on this good Earth. Though this may sound harsh now, you are so very lucky to have had a decent, caring and thoughtful parent to have watched you through to present. The very best to you!!

  20. Emily

    As I sat upright in my bed scrolling through Facebook almost two weeks ago and came upon your update “Dad won his battle with ALS tonight and went home….” I immediately burst into tears. The kind of tears that take you by surprise and make your husband come running from the bedroom closet to see what has happened. I’ve been thinking about reaching out to you in some way or another every day since then. But each time I try, I feel that I am inadequate and lacking in my ability to properly form my thoughts or express anything that would be of value to you.

    But today is the exact day two years ago that I watched my father “win his battle” with ALS. I held his hand with my mother and said goodbye. And all I can think about is giving you a hug and crying with you and telling you “I understand.” And having you hug me back and knowing that you understand me too.

    From the responses on your FB page and here on your blog it is clear that you are loved and admired by many who have very intelligent, relevant and poignant things to say. I agree with all of them. I feel as though “I couldn’t say it better” is an understatement.

    I’m no scholar. I am a college graduate and got decent grades. I’ve always had plans and saw them through. I’ve always taken education very seriously and teach that to my children. But I’m also a stay at home mother of average intelligence to three great boys. I don’t have any insights other than my own experience. And what I’ve learned from my father’s passing is actually directly in line with your question here. My dad was a wonderful man who taught us to work hard, study even harder, get a good education and do what’s right. He had goals for himself and reached them. But those may look like very simple ones to an outsider. He wanted to marry, raise a family, support them and serve others. We never had a lot of money but we never did without. We weren’t an incredibly close family yet we’ve never had drama or rifts in relationships. From my perspective as his daughter, I saw that everything comes to fruition if you do the right thing and plan for it. My siblings and I knew that if you do A and then B it will equal C and you will be happy. And it seemed like that happy and successful life looked more or less the same to everyone. I desired that life and trotted along to do A and B myself. And in many respects that is exactly what I got. A very happy “C” life.

    Yet, as my father slowly deteriorated from his disease and I struggled to watch him die, I realized something. Maybe planning is overrated. There is no one path to happiness. My dad had a proverbial straight line with checkpoints all along the way which led to a “correct and happy life”. It hasn’t been until my 30′s that I’ve come to see that isn’t the case.

    In the last 5 years or so many things in my life have changed. Nothing on the outside so much as quite a bit on the inside. Views, perspectives, belief systems of a spouse, disease, stress, and death. I reached a point shortly after my dad passed that it all came together for me. Plans don’t automatically produce happiness or peace. You have to make your own path and find your own way to that place. And it will be very different for everyone. And that’s ok.

    • Emily: thank you. This really touched me. It’s just what I needed. Your beautiful heart comes shining through. Much love from one ALS family to another. J

    • Kris

      This really touched me as well, Emily. Your words got to me, because you’ve obviously walked this walk before, and you KNOW. You managed to write words that I couldn’t put together as intelligently. Thank you.

  21. Liz

    I offer my condolences to you and your family Joanna. I am sorry for your loss.

    As a Mormon girl in her early twenties I have spent many hours, both alone and with others, trying to process the sometimes double standard I have felt from church counsel. Every Sunday seems to be a drilling of one of the following 1. Get married 2. Get an education 3. Stay out of debt, with one exception being an education 4. Do not procrastinate settling down and starting a family.

    Education has always been a part of my plan. I am currently pursuing a master’s degree and plan to pursue a PH.D afterword.

    The church would like me to obtain an education, without pursuing a career to pay off the debt that comes with that education. A career is a necessary component of an education to, at minimum, pay off student loans, but as I begin to pursue higher levels of education I have felt an increased resistance from church leaders. This is quite frustrating as I am sure these same statements are not used for men with similar aspirations.

    My message as part of Mormon feminism would be a message to the young women to take pride and ownership in themselves and their education. They should seek to obtain a practical and complete education, not “in case something happens to their husband,” but to be an active contributor to the world now.

    Oh, I would also address how the church goes about teaching young women about modesty and sex, but that is a different story.

    • Rebecca

      I could not agree more. With every statement from beginning to end.

    • Jennifer

      Liz,
      I am a 44 year old mother of 4, and I have been wondering the same things as you since I was in YW. I don’t understand the double standard. Since I got married when I was 19 at BYU, I lost focus because I knew that even if I got my degree I wasn’t supposed to use it to earn money. I attribute getting my B.S. degree mostly due to my grandfather’s and mother’s teaching of the value of an education. I still remember learning in YW lessons that the reason you get an education was, as you said, “in case something happens to your husband”.

      Another example: when I was in my college ward at BYU, the Relief Society lesson was about how we could help contribute to the family income without leaving our children. The only thing women could come up with was watching other women’s children. I was appalled that with all the education we were getting, it still didn’t seem to matter. The message was “Don’t use it to earn money. Use your education to help raise your children only.”

      I don’t mean for this post to sound negative, but I hope it conveys the confusion and frustration that can occur from the way young women are being taught in church. I can say that I now believe in getting an education with the plan of using it, however and whenever is right for each woman. I believe that every young woman should be taught to listen carefully to the Spirit as she makes the decisions for her life. I believe that there is no “One Size Fits All” way to be a woman. I believe that being a mother is a valuable and important career, but like any career, it looks different for everyone.

      I’m now working part-time as an accountant with plans to get my CPA license. I love working, and I love being my children’s mom. I seek guidance often from my Heavenly Father to help me balance my career goals and my motherhood goals.

      And yes, much change needs to occur in how modesty and sex is taught. The problem I noticed with 3 girls going through YW, was not the lesson material, but the teachers’ interpretations of the lessons. I have had to do a lot of “unteaching” at home to correct the personal opinion of the teacher.

  22. Marilyn

    Dear Joanna,
    I remember your father well. He’ll always be Bishop Brooks to me. He was intelligent, bold, compassionate, accomplished and VERY handsome. I’m so sorry he is gone from you in this life. I last saw him a year ago and it hurt to see what ALS had taken from him physically, and yet with one glance of his eyes I could see he was still strong. My heart aches for you and your family.
    As far as your questions go:
    1. I did have concrete goals for my life and a plan on how to achieve them. Most of those goals were related to career and health. I’m the type that can get on the path to achieve a goal and never reassess whether a change of plans is in order. I’m left wondering how often I should be reassessing my goals when life feels so uncertain and difficult to plan for. I wasn’t sure if motherhood was in the cards for me so I decided not to plan on that front. It was more a matter of not wanting to invest in something that wasn’t totally under my control. Now that I’m a mom, I’m left wondering “Now what?”
    2. My parents were planners and taught all of us to plan from a very early age. One night at FHE my parents (I was probably 10 years old) my parents asked each of us to talk about what kind of lifestyle we wanted as adults. We rattled on about the fun we wanted to have, the vacations, cars, houses, boats, clothes, toys, possible children, etc. Then my parents walked us through how much those lifestyles would cost. The jobs they would require. The education that would be necessary. The grades we would need to get into good schools. It was the only childhood lesson I remember as an adult and it was eye opening. My only child is 15 months old so I haven’t taught him to plan yet, but I will when the time is right.
    3. If I could set a goal for feminism it would be to focus on the outcomes for boys and girls alike. I think the outcome of feminism for our generation has been great for young women and I’m proud to see those accomplishments. However, I think the outcome has been lacking in results for young men. It’s as if the daughters were taught the values of feminism while the sons were out playing dodgeball (literally and metaphorically, especially in the Church) – families raising daughters that are forces of feminism in the very same families where the sons are living as nothing has changed in the last sixty years. How do I raise my son as a feminist?
    Yours in sorrow,
    A Wilkinson Girl

    • Rebecca

      I agree whole-heartedly that the outcomes need to be taught to boys and girls alike. I see education being pushed for girls and missions being pushed for boys. And then the leaders wonder why marriage is being delayed….the boys were never taught the importance of an education and are intimidated by girls who have one and/or out-earn them. A mission is fantastic, but the importance of how an education relates to a good career is important as well. The 60-year old advice of just getting a job and working your way up the ladder does not fare very well without the degree to back it up anymore.

  23. We just got back from Colorado and found your email. I’m so sorry Joanna. I’ve lost my father, and all I can offer by way of comfort is that the loss becomes part of the fabric of your being, and thus bearable. Jewish doctrine says that as long as a loved one lives in your memory, he or she truly lives. May he live long in the memories of all who loved him.
    Olav ha-shalom–May he rest in peace.
    Sharon Goldstein

  24. Joanna, sorry to hear of your loss. Though I am a grown woman with 6 children, when I lost my father a few years ago I realized a part of me will always be daddy’s little girl. It rocked my world and caused me to take stock of my own mortality and what I want to do with whatever time I have left. I sense you are exploring some of those same themes. Best of luck with your journey.

    As a Mormon mother of 1 incredible son and 5 wonderful daughters, your questions about Mormon feminism struck a chord with me. I believe the first step in empowering women, from all walks of life, is a formal education. I recently returned to Brigham Young University and completed my degree ( I received my diploma just last week!) I did it for myself and to set an example for my daughters and granddaughters. I am happy to report that I have always been encouraged by Mormon priesthood leadership to complete my education — beginning with the counsel of Rex Lee who was my ecclesiastical leader when I got married and encouraged me to get as much education as possible.

    Sadly, not all women in Utah are hearing/following the education message. Utah ranks dead last for percentage of young women with a college degree.

    http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700187863/Utah-should-do-more-to-help-women-get-degrees.html

    I am working to see that my daughters do not fall into this category. Two have already graduated (one of them went on to complete a Master’s Degree), two are in progress and the youngest is still in high school.

    In addition to the obvious benefits of opening one’s mind to the world, the process of completing an education develops the tools for mapping out and achieving goals, an essential skill set for planning a fulfilled and happy life — no matter what your gender :)

  25. CaroleCarole

    Once, when I was a single undergraduate engineering student at BYU, a classmate asked me in what part of the country I would like to live. Before I could answer, a male classmate said, “You know what you should say is, ‘wherever my husband gets a job’” I was offended at the time, but I actually really did buy into the idea that my own professional and educational goals should always be subordinate to those of my husband. Because of this, I never made any long-term goals or plans for myself. I never thought more than two or three years into the future.

    That has finally changed for me over the past several months. For the first time, I feel like I can look five or ten years into the future and know where I would like to be and how I intend to get there. It’s a really good feeling. In a way, I wish I had gotten to this point earlier. (On the other hand, I don’t really regret any of the experiences I had as I was sort of wandering aimlessly through life.)

    I think that planning comprises three parts: imagining several possible alternative futures, choosing the future you like best, and determining what steps will be necessary to make that future a reality. I think we in the church do a pretty good job teaching both young men and young women about that last part. Where we might fall short, especially with young women, is teaching them to create and evaluate alternative futures for their own lives.

  26. Rebecca

    I am so sorry for your loss. Please know that there are many prayers going up for you during this time.
    In regards to learning to plan–I did not really begin planning and setting goals in my own life until a few years ago. My sister and I were talking about how she felt after accomplishing everything on her “Young Women’s Checklist.” Married, had a baby, had a good job, college degree. What do you do with the next 70 years when you accomplish every goal YW taught by the time you are 25? I realized that I had not set any real goals for myself either, mostly because I did not think I was smart enough to accomplish what I really wanted to do. I was a good wife and mom, but I felt empty enough to know that something was wrong. This was the catalyst that put me on a quest to realize that I really was a daughter of God, that He cares about me and the details of my life, and subsequently that I AM smart enough to achieve goals in my life (this also had the unfortunate result of my husband leaving because he couldn’t manipulate me any longer, which has actually turned out to be the best gift he could have given me!).
    In the last few years, I have learned to plan my goals primarily by trial and error. I had such a fear of failure that I did not try very much, and had not really learned accountability for my own goals.That changed over time and I am no longer afraid to fail or set the same goal 15 (or 150) times. I look at what I have accomplished in my life and the changes I have made over the last four years, and I must say that I like myself and who I am becoming—and I don’t remember EVER feeling that way in my life before. I believe that when we plan and work and evaluate and try again and reevaluate, we become stronger and that works in our favor to continue on those paths. We feel better about who we are when we work to become the women we choose to be. I see this in my life as I work with women who are “displaced homemakers.” As they set goals and decide what they want for the next stage of their lives, it is amazing to see the change in them, in the way they carry themselves, in the way they speak. It truly is life-changing and life-affirming to set goals, achieve them (or adjust them), and continue the cycle. Conversely, I have seen other women who are shriveling. In my other life as a single girl in the church, I am constantly amazed to come in contact with so many women in their 30s and 40s who are just working a job and waiting to get married. Often times, these women had vibrant lives in their 20s, filled with volunteer work and adventure. But because they hadn’t marked off the YW checklist of being married, they feel they no longer have anything of value to contribute to society, which is crazy! I am always thrilled to meet women who are working to make a difference in their sphere of influence, regardless of what that sphere might look like.
    I have three beautiful daughters, and I certainly teach them to plan. We practice goal-setting and make charts with rewards attached to only some of the goals. They get so excited when they make and achieve a goal, and they are constantly re-working and planning their futures. I love it. I teach them the value of an education and career planning. Ask my girls if they plan to finish college before they have babies and they will all say yes; they know first-hand the time sacrificed with mom while I do homework.
    I don’t know how much of a feminist I am, but I believe we do our girls a dis-service by teaching them that if they choose the right, everything will be a fairy tale (the Prince Charming showing up and all of a sudden life is good kind of fairy tale). We need to teach them to set goals for their own lives, to work to accomplish them, to re-work their goals when life happens or gets in the way, to let them learn to pick up the pieces when they fail, and to understand that marriage and children are not a checklist item. They come in the Lord’s time, and we need not base our value on having “accomplished” them or not. My own mother still tells me that I should be spending more time looking for a husband to take care of me (financially, of course) and has only recently become more supportive of my choice to go to school to become a nurse. A nurse! One of the most traditional “women’s” careers, and she still has issues with it. On a somewhat related note, I am often asked from new people at church who know that I am a single mom, “do you work?” I want to say, um, do you have an alternative plan to paying your bills? So, as many have said above, being a mother is absolutely fabulous and I certainly did not choose to have children so that someone else could raise them, but the working mom stigma certainly needs to be erased at church. Choosing to stay home should be supported as well. Though I believe by making that choice, you should also be making the choice to be an active part of your community and that every woman should have something (career or volunteer) to keep a resume up to date.

    • Kris

      Rebecca, I LOVED reading your post. So impressed with what you are doing, your outlook on life, and what you are teaching your girls. We need more women like you in the church.

  27. Fer Alva

    I[m very sorry for you loss. for me it was the passing away of my mom that hit me hard!!!!

    a plan is good!? sometimes? too much planning and ruin perfect evening and to little can simple make that it never happens. Or any even for that matter. a picnic for example! to many word in a speech will put them to sleep or leave them with confusion as to what the message was.

    I generally plan in excess and after 50 years I am finally getting somewhere… I plan less! my meals, the workouts, shopping schedule etc. but I really do plan on living it up after my death!

  28. Erin

    My goal for Mormon feminism would be to encourage every worthy woman to serve a full-time mission for the church. My full-time missionary experience has been as valuable to me spiritually as my university experience has been intellectually.

  29. Renee

    Do you have goals for your life and plans for how to achieve them?

    I do! I’m nearly 20 years old, and I am certainly going on a mission, then going to graduate school, and then building a career. I’m also going to become a wife and a mother somewhere in there. I’m lucky in that my Patriarchal blessing tells me in no uncertain terms that God wants me to do these things, which has given me peace when my bishop wouldn’t believe that I had actually received such revelation, or when upperclassmen boys in my research lab tried to take bets on when I would get married. I am currently dating a wonderful boy who believes me and supports me in doing these things. He’ll be leaving on his mission soon, and I’m very excited for him.

    Did anyone teach you to plan? Are you teaching your kids to plan?

    My parents always expected me to go to college and get my degree. My mother has a PhD, (my dad only has a masters!) and her example has always encouraged me to further my education. I remember being taught budgeting in Young Women’s, and being encouraged to get an education, even if you get married.

    If you could set goals for Mormon feminism and a plan for how to achieve them, what would they be?

    I think there needs to be a focus on the men for Mormon Feminism to go forward. Cultural things, really. I think that there should be more of an effort to avoid giving RMs a feeling that they are entitled to a wife if they finish a mission. Yes, you served a mission and that is good. No, you should not expect the first girl that you go on three dates with after your mission to become your wife. No, it is not “wasted money” to go on a date with a girl who doesn’t marry you. No, a girl is not a bad person for refusing to go on a a date with you. And these feelings aren’t just present in Mormon culture, these feelings of entitlement are present throughout culture at large. It’s just more marriage focused in Mormon culture.

    I also think that the Pornography issue should be addressed not just from a chastity standpoint, but a Human rights standpoint.

  30. Katie

    I have have always identified as a feminist but have never been involved in LDS feminist action – perhaps it is time. A goal that I would like to see LDS feminism tackle is to change the discourse around women working outside the home. I do not advocate for a fundamental change in doctrine. Rather, I see the role of mother as pursuing ALL worthy ways to build and strengthen the family. This may include pursuing a career.

    I am a part-time lawyer and mother of two. In many ways, I have it all – a rewarding career and a lot of time at home (I work 3 days per week and hire a housekeeper to do a lot of the heavy cleaning). And yet I still really struggle with whether I should quit and stay home. I don’t always love my job and my husband, also a lawyer, makes enough for us to live comfortably. My mother worked full time when I was a child so it is clearly not home pressure or teachings from my home leading me to think that I must stay home. I think it is the repeated times that I have heard and continue to hear at church that women should stay home all the time.

    Raising kids and being with them is an important and rewarding part of parenting, but sometimes I wonder if individual families might better support their kids with alternative structures. I am still not sure of the right course for our family but I have seen many benefits from my part-time career, including socialization and diversity in activities for my toddler, as well as financial security for our family and some fulfillment for me. I may stay home in the end but it would be naive to think that that decision must be the right decision simply because I am the mom.

    If I could get through a Mother’s Day sacrament meeting without hearing the words “help meet” or some sort of drivol about how mothers are awesome because they stay home to raise kids (a slap in the face to the approximate 40% of us in the ward who work, either by choice or necessity), I would consider that a very successful achievement.

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