Thursday, December 29, 2011

Heavenly Mother in Young Women's: What you hadn't noticed about the personal progress program

The LDS young women's organization (for girls aged 12-18) has something called Personal Progress, which is a program in which the girls complete a series of experiences (small) and projects (larger) designed to help them increase their faith and skills. The experiences and projects are in 'values' (categories) such as faith, individual worth, good works, and integrity. The booklet has a list of suggestions, but girls can also design their own experiences. When a girl has completed the designated things, she is awarded a medallion.

When I was a young woman, there were 42 experiences and 4 big projects (20-30 hours each), and it had to be completed over the course of all six years, because the girl could not start on the next portion until her next birthday. At the end of every two years, if a girl had completed everything for those years she could earn one of the class medallions. If she completed everything, she could earn this "Young Womanhood" medallion --->
A pretty lady standing by some flowers. (Here I could make all sorts of comments about symbolism of juxtaposing a girl with flowers, or the apparent focus on the outward appearance of the girl depicted...but I don't really want to. I will just note that this is the old medallion, the one I got, but which very few of my peers did.)

A few years ago they revamped the program, and now there are 48 experiences and 8 (10 hr) projects--6 experiences and 1 project in each of the 8 value areas. They also took out the timetable, so girls are able to work through all of the goals at their own pace, no waiting for birthdays (and losing momentum). They have done away with the intermediate medallions, and changed the final medallion (more on that in a moment!) and they have now added honor bees.

An honor bee is a charm which the girl can earn after she has earned her medallion. She can actually earn as many as three bees, and does so by doing more goals, or helping other girls complete their experiences and projects.
It's a lovely idea, the extra charms for going the extra mile, but what I particularly noticed was that it's a BEE. You know, a symbol of Mother Goddess.

Better still is the new medallion. It is a combination of several symbols: the temple, the beehive, the laurel wreath, the rose, and the ruby. Young women are divided into three classes: Beehives (12-13), Mia Maids (14-15) and Laurels (16-17). Bees and beehives are a symbol often found in the church as a symbol of industry. The symbol for Mia Maids is a rose (something about purity or beauty I suspect, though I'm not certain). Laurels are named for laurel wreaths, as the ancient greeks used to crown champions. The temple is where a young woman wants to go, and a ruby reminds her of Proverbs 31, which says that a virtuous woman's worth is far above rubies.
This medallion is also available in the girl's choice of gold or silver, which is just nice, because some of us prefer silver (also, aside from my personal preference, silver carries female energy while gold carries male, so silver is more appropriate than gold anyway).
The temple is a symbol of Heavenly Mother.
So is the bee.
So is the ruby.
And trees (like laurels) and flowers (like roses) are often seen as symbols of the Divine Feminine as well.
In other words, this new medallion positively GLOWS with Heavenly Mother. It is FULL of Her. She is everywhere. When these girls earn and wear this medallion, it is not just a symbol that they have completed a set of projects (though that is notable): it is a symbol of their potential to become like their Heavenly Mother. To become goddesses like She is.

Now we just need to teach the girls what it is that they are wearing.

Monday, December 19, 2011


My birthday is in July, so my birthstone is the ruby. It's a pretty gem, intense and dark, and very expensive (more expensive than diamonds actually, last I heard). It is a very sturdy stone, second hardest on the rating scale after diamonds.
And it's red. My favorite color is pink. I almost never wear red. So I never really wanted anything with my birthstone on it...
And then I learned that the ruby and the sapphire are actually the same stone on a molecular level, they just come out in different colors. Actually they come in a wide variety of colors, but for some reasons the red (or sometimes pinkish) ones get called "rubies" and all the other colors are called "sapphires"...the blue ones are plain "sapphires" and the others are "green sapphires" or "orange sapphires" and so on.
these colors are all sapphires/rubies

This year I was reading about the properties of various gemstones. I have never really believed that a rock could have power, but the more I learn about the universe, the more I believe that the whole energy field notion actually has some merit. And so I decided to read up on the ruby, and see if I could make friends with it.
I found some interesting things.
The ruby

  • brings integrity, devotion and happiness 
  • brings and increases love
  • very protective of home and children
  • is a stone of high energy and power that promotes healing on all levels [link]
  • is a stone of nobility 
  • brings love, confidence, loyalty, and courage
  • instills stamina, vitality and strength
  • re-energizes one after exhaustion 
  • helps to reduce negative thought patterns
  • is a good stone of protection. 
  • helps you feel more like giving to others and doing so with love and joy in your heart. There is no room for resentment in ones heart who is being of service to others and this stone does not allow that to be a part of your heart. it helps you relax as you caretake others because you can trust you will not be trapped in any way in that role. It helps all to be warm, caring and help out with the needs of others. it also helps one with devotion to others. [link]
  • considered to be the most powerful gem in the universe
  • the symbol of vitality and royalty
  • contentment and peace [link]

I most frequently found the ruby associated with motherhood, home, service and healing. For these and other reasons, I and others have come to feel that the ruby's energy field is a reflection of mother, or, more accurately, of Mother.
I thought also of the fact that ruby is also the most expensive gemstone--more than diamonds--which puts me in mind of Proverbs where it asks "who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is above rubies." I have thought much on that, and about the idea that equating virtuous women (us) with rubies is actually equating us to Heavenly Mother and our potential to be like her.
Making this connection has been powerful for me, because of the ruby being MY birthstone, I now feel an additional connection to the Divine Feminine that I hadn't before. Not just a connection in terms of being more interested in Her, but a connection in terms of seeing Her in myself.

star ruby
You know something else interesting? The ruby (aka sapphire) is the only stone which may have a star in it. I haven't reached any conclusions about deep meanings in that, except I bet that there is one. (What do you think?)

Depending upon which type of gold you have the ring set in, (yellows or silvers) the ruby would bring with it these healing properties as well. The yellows carry the energy of the Sun or a masculine energy, while the silvers carry the energy of the Moon or a feminine energy. [link] Ruby rings should be worn on the left hand so as to receive the life force and have protection. [link]
It seems that I should be in the market for a left-hand, silver-set ruby ring. Don't you think?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Second Week of Advent: GRACE

[image source]

This week I am considering grace.
This is a virtue that gets a lot of air time in most Christian faiths, but not so much with Mormons. I think this is unfortunate, but I also think I know why it is.  In the Book of Mormon, there is a verse which says
For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do. (2 Nephi 25:23)

I usually hear it read this way:

we know that it is by grace that we are saved, AFTER ALL WE CAN DO.

I think it should be read this way:

we know that IT IS BY GRACE THAT WE ARE SAVED, after all we can do.

Works are important, I don't doubt that for a second. James wrote that faith without works is dead (James 2:25). But the simple fact is that we are still saved by grace. Works do matter, and we should do good works, in fact we should do all that we can do...but we should never forget that no matter how much we do, it will not be sufficient on its own. We still need Saving Grace, even after all we can do.

Christ says "my grace is sufficient for all men" (Ether 12:27) and so it is. We should not stop doing our best, but we also should not forget that grace is personal (just as "our best" is personal and will vary from one person to another), and that Christ's Grace will fill up the parts we cannot fill, so long as we invite Him in.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Meditating on Hope

On Sunday night, I lit some candles in a darkened room, and made my quiet space for pondering and meditating on hope. As I've mentioned before, I need to find something to focus on if I want to think without distraction...I cannot just "empty my mind." I like to use a candle for this purpose, as looking into a candle flame helps keep me centered and mindful.

As I thought about hope, a phrase came to me repeatedly, the "perfect brightness of hope" mentioned in scripture. I also thought about hope as a virtue, large enough to be worthy of combining with faith and love (or charity as the KJV states). It's something significant. We use the word 'hope' in a flip way so often, and yet the true meaning of hope is anything but flippant.
Hope is the belief, anticipation, or expectation of something...but not just of anything. Hope is the expectation of something good. In other words, I think that hope is inherently positive, and might even be a fair synonym for "optimism." It is the expectation that goodness will come to us, the belief that people are good, the trust that God will fulfill his promises. If faith is the belief in things which are not seen, then I think hope (the next virtue in the sequence) is the expectation of goodness which is not yet realized.

I have always been a fairly optimistic person. It is interesting to consider this trait in light of being not just a happy habit, but an actual virtue.
What do you think about hope?

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