Friday, March 07, 2008

Take your opportunities as they come

Julie Beck spoke at the law school today, and let me just say that it. rocked. my. socks. off.

I'll be honest: her talk last general conference freaked me out. I read it again as soon as the transcripts were posted online, and upon re-reading, I felt a lot better, but I still didn't really get my role (particularly as a pregnant law student) in the picture she was painting, and had a hard time with some of the examples. So, naturally, I was excited/curious about what she'd say to us, a large group of professional LDS women, attending a church-sponsored school, no less. And basically, IT WAS AWESOME. A brief rundown for anyone interested:

She began by telling us our lives had been engineered for this opportunity, saying how many women she knew would love to be where we are. She invited us to think about elements that came together to bring us to law (or business) school and what responsibility that gives us, and to remember that the Lord is investing in us and will require His payback so we should always be mindful of that, being aware of ways we can help the world.

Then, guess what she did? Opened it on up for questions! I was impressed with her willingness to speak so openly and frankly with us. She basically said, "Look, tough questions will come to me and will come to you. This setting is easiest, with lots of common ground, so ask away, and if you aren't comfortable with the answers I'm giving, keep asking, let's keep talking, and we'll teach each other." You've got to respect that openness, that willingness to just have an open dialogue with us.

One question was about how we can keep our confidence, our sense of self-worth in such a competitive world (and in such competitive fields). Her response? 2 Timothy 3:

This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

She talked a lot about how those are characteristics of the competitive world around us and that's what we're commanded to turn away from...that we are to maximize our time with our families and minimize the time we spend in the world described in 2 Timothy. Basically she said, whether you work outside the home or choose to stay at home, there won't be enough of you to go around, there will always be demands on our time, and we can't delegate away the most important things, and that in all we do we should recognize what's evil and "from such turn away."

Someone asked a question about a "gap" in conference talks, that it seems like female speakers talk about their grandkids and male speakers talk about doctrine. She basically responded that her statements in conference aren't hers, and other speakers' messages aren't theirs. God uses all of them to say what He wants, and He uses her experience & understanding to get His message across, and a lot of her experiences involve her family, but that doesn't reflect a deep schism or anything.

She also said she meant The Talk from last conference to be about overriding principles...that women have always been teachers and leaders and that God still expects that of us. And that life happens when we practice our principles, and we can respond accordingly, and how we'll all be faced with hard choices but if we're living close to the Spirit, we'll want to do what's most important and we'll know what that is. She said maybe her examples in the talk weren't perfect but the point was the importance of God's plan and our vital role in it. Interestingly, she also noted that this is only an issue with North American women, because everywhere else in the world, everyone works.

Someone asked what her advice is for single women, who aren't necessarily "choosing their career over marriage" but who aren't married and don't know if they will be; what should they do? I LOVED her response: "Go for broke. Full speed ahead." As long as you don't forget the gospel, you'll be an influence for good whatever you do. Be careful of the lures of the world ("from such turn away"), but choose to take your opportunities as they come. She also said that if the Lord is guiding you and you know it, you can find a gracious response to people who ask ill-mannered questions about your priorities.

She also gave a shout-out to the stay at home mom world, saying that many bright women make that decision and it's a sacrifice worthy of praise so don't feel like you're crazy if that's what you decide to do for a while.

She referenced Doctrine & Covenants 138:38-39 about how "among the great and mighty ones who were assembled in this vast congregation" seen in vision by Joseph F. Smith was "our glorious Mother Eve, with many of her faithful daughters who had lived through the ages and worshiped the true and living God." She said that as women, we're among the great and mighty ones, we're half the plan, and the plan can't happen without us. She kept mentioning that it's not about man's work and woman's work, but about the Lord's work and how it won't go across the world without us.

Another woman asked her what is most important for us to teach our daughters, who will experience a different world than we did, which hit especially close to home for me. Her response: teach them who we are, our identity as women, the plan, God's role in that plan, OUR role in that plan and how there are some portions of that role that can't be delegated. She then talked about pioneer women and how the women who left their homes and loved ones and their china and their woven rugs didn't do it because they were "subservient" but because they knew the whole thing depended on them, and that today the work depends on us, and that we make our own decisions in faith. The whole discussion was absolutely empowering. Before the meeting, I was expecting to leave feeling conflicted or confused about what I should do in the future. Instead, I left feeling reminded that I had been guided to law school and to this point in my life, and excited about my opportunities, and also excited about options our daughter will have and I loved it.

Anyway, her candidness and openness and professionalism amazed me and her testimony rocked my socks off. My bits of concern with some previous statements have melted away and I give her two thumbs up, way up.


Mrs. Clark said...

Wow! Thanks for sharing. I am on the brink of heading back into the work force, and this is a difficult time as I move into the role of mothering young adults. I feel I've "chosen the better part," but I hope that I can find fulfilling work that also allows me to have the home time I crave and to be able to help my kids when they need it.


megandjon said...

kathleen! this is amazing. i was seriously in tears by the end. what a special experience you and every woman in that room must have had! i might have to copy/paste this in an email to some beloved female family members. is that ok? do i have your copyright permission? thank you so much for sharing. just what i needed to read tonight!

Allyson said...

Thanks for taking such good notes and sharing what you learned! Seriously, it sounds like a great meeting.

Anna said...

Thank YOU! Wowza I loved reading this. I am so grateful that you are such a good note taker and that you have this great mind that remembers such great things to share.
LOVED what she said to single women- Go for broke. Full speed ahead. Take your opportunities as they come.
thanks gurr face!

Nikki said...

What a wonderful experience for you AND for us since you shared it! I feel totally empowered from reading this. Thank you.

erin g said...

thanks for sharing. i have a job interview tomorrow and i am trying to get excited about it so i come across as actually interested in a legal career, which has been hard because i have been so ambivalent about being a working mom. and what i have come up with lately is just that, no matter what i do, there will be demands on my time and i just need to figure out how to put first things first and stop beating myself up about everything. so i really appreciated these comments from her.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing. I'm so glad you were there to hear this. I'm more impressed with Julie Beck. I know that a talk like this would have really helped my generation.

Nathaniel and Dorothy said...

Oh, my gosh, that is awesome! I couldnt' be there because I was with the Trial Ad team, competing in Seattle against people who were lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, and highminded. I wish I'd stayed in Utah.

AzĂșcar said...

Amazing entry K, amazing. As a working mom this helped me focus on Beck's overriding message vs. the hubbub surrounding The Talk.