Sister Julie B. Beck answered member questions, on the Mormon Channel, about how to best spend our leisure time, focusing on activities from what kinds of books we read, movies we watch, and of great interest to this WBMW --  the subject of blogging -- discussed in detail.

Disclaimer: I've utilized my mad transcription skills to transcribe quite a bit of the interview with Sister Beck, and hope you enjoy being able to read and ponder her great counsel. (But please ignore the lack of editing.) However, I don't recommend you using the quotes just in case I've not been 100% accurate, and would not want to misrepresent her words around the blogosphere. So, if you're tempted, before you do, make sure and listen to the interview yourself -- to make sure we both have it right. : )

So, how does Sister Beck spend her leisure time?   


Video: Julie B. Beck on Leisure Time


"My first priority is to spend time with my family, but I feel oftentimes the need to do something that isn't so intense, and that isn't so mind challenging,  that it gives my mind a rest. It's sort of like Nephi losing the spring in his bow I need to do something that helps me keep my soul in balance. I love good books and I love to sleep, but I don't get enough of either of those. I love and enjoy old classic movies, particularly now when I hear so many weighty and difficult problems I like old classic movies that are humorous and have happy endings, and that invite the spirit into my home."

"It's wonderful for us to have opportunities to renew our spirits. For me it's connected with the Spirit -- how is it building my spirit and my personal spiritual strength -- and there has to be some of that. I am a compulsive reader. I always have to have something to read...."  

Member Question:  How can we have downtime and not feel bad if we're not doing genealogy or journaling, or reading the scriptures or planning a lesson or something else.  How do we find a balance?

Sister Beck responded by acknowledging this as the "age old question of women". She said that there are always ten things we could be doing in every moment or hour that we have.  We have to make choices about the things that are essential and necessary, and the things that are nice to do. 

"For me, I sort of categorize my life in those categories. The essentials have to be taken care of first. There are a lot of necessary things that need to be done. If I have to write a talk for a major broadcast no one is going to write that talk for me. I have to force myself to sit down and study and do the reading and the writing that gets that done. It's a necessary task. And then there is some nice to do things that add beauty and variety, and lift to our lives. They lift our spirits."

Sister Beck shared this quote by Ezra Taft Benson: "When we put God first all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives. Our love of the Lord will govern the claims for our affection, the demands of our time, the interest we pursue and the order of our priorities." She said, "I love that. It's our love of the Lord that does that. I try to choose things where I can feel the Lord's approval in that choice. I don't think He wants me to be working, working, working every minute. He wants me to be a whole person."

Mormon Channel: We are speaking specifically today about media because in the last 10-15 years our choices with media have exploded. There is a lot more options to ways we use our leisure time because of the media. It's in our homes and in our purses and with us as we go along…. (Close quote)

Sister Beck:


"This extends not just to the use of the media. We are focusing on that a little bit today and I hope what we talk primarily, are principles that will help us and maybe some examples on that. But some people spend their leisure time in lots of physical activities, outdoor activities, sports and so on…  So the principles apply in all things -- but those things often feed our souls"

Member Question: Spending free time reading.  Is it a good thing? Is it a waste of time if the book is not spiritually based?

Sister Beck:

Quoted 2 Nephi 9:51 and explained it as the principle that can be applied to answer this question. She confessed that she is a "big reader", a "compulsive reader".

"Wherefore, do not spend money for that which is of no worth, nor your labor for that which cannot satisfy. Hearken diligently unto me, and remember the words which I have spoken; and come unto the Holy One of Israel, and feast upon that which perisheth not, neither can be corrupted, and let your soul delight in fatness."


She went on to explained: " I love the concept of climate and establishing a climate in my home where the Spirit can dwell. The books I read contribute to that climate in me, in my heart. They contribute to the climate in my home.  It's the same with movies, its the same with media. If we think of establishing a climate where the Spirit can be nurtured and dwell. I know that there are a lot of popular trends in books and people tend to chase after a reading trend because they often don't know what to read. I generally have something going in the scriptures, something that's of a church book nature, or church magazine, something in current events, something nonfiction and something fiction -- generally a classic or it's a classic to me. 

I have sort of established some rules for myself: tone of the language have to be elevated enough, and the story line enough, and well written enough that it will increase my vocabulary  and elevate my thinking and enrich my mind. I have to read. There is something in me that makes me have to read. So I make time for that. I don't know where the time comes, usually from sleep. If I can't sleep I read something."

I've quoted a number of times, Eliza R. Snow, where she says "We're here trying to be fit companions for the gods and holy ones." So we wouldn't want to fill our minds and thoughts with things that don't elevate, that don't feed our spirit, so to speak. I've also heard that classics are classics for a reason. They are timeless for a reason.  They are well written. They promote good thinking. They push us to things. 

I remember a conference where President Hinckley stood up and prefaced his remarks by saying, "In preparation for this talk I read…" and then he gave this list that was probably two thousand pages long, if not more. Other times he quoted from Shakespeare or other writers or poets. He loved Tennyson. That taught me something about President Hinckley. I remember sitting in conference once listening and thinking "My goodness, Pres. Hinckley loves to read".  Another time he said, "I love the heft and feel of a good book".  So reading isn't evil.  Reading is a blessing and the Lord has created records for us to read and to study. A lot of good things have been written to elevate us, so I don't think reading is a waste of time, and I don't think we can only read church sponsored books. There is a lot of good out there. It's on us though, to learn to make the choices that will create the climate in us that enables the Spirit to grow and flourish."

Sister Beck then shared this sweet tidbit about how she raised her own children to love reading:

As a young mother when needing to get up in the middle of the night, she thought 'oh good' I can read for 20 minutes! She always had something that she wanted to read that she saved for those quiet, in the middle of the night hours, when no one would bother her.

I love that! And this...

She never told a child to turn out the light if they were reading a book before bed. She let them read as late as they wanted -- even if they were young children.  She wanted to foster a love of reading.

I quote her here: "A reading child is a child that will stay out of trouble. That's a belief that I have. There's something wholesome in a child wanting to feed their mind. You have to imagine things when you are reading, that only you can see. And visualize things that only you can see. That's why it's important to select good things. I don't know that there's enough great literature for younger children. I wish there was more of that.  But I encouraged my children to read and put a lamp by the side of their bed. They always had a little bookcase by the side of their bed. Yes we read the scriptures. Yes we read The Liahona, and The Friend, and The New Era..."    

One thing noticed during the interview was that much of Sister Beck's leisure time is spent with her family, whether through outdoor activities or reading together as a family -- they are often included.  Reading together as a family contributed to the culture of their family and what is familiar to the group.

Member Question: Another sister called in wanting to know how to look for the principles behind deciding what to watch or what to use when you're using media? How do you make decisions about what you will consume in regard to the media and how do you choose to spend your free time?  

Sister Beck shared that she doesn't consider "time" free. She feels it's all part of building our spirit and nature.  For the Strength of Youth pamphlet gives us guidelines: We stay away from things that are vulgar, immoral, violent and pornographic. We know why those things are. We're adult enough to know what they are. It's just about establishing a climate within ourselves where the Spirit can dwell and you know when that is going away.  President Packer just spoke to the youth, seminary commemoration, he said: "You'll always be warned if something is wrong. You know what that waring sounds like in your head. You feel it. You've felt it. It's the Holy Ghost."

"I have had to get up and walk out of a movie or a broadway show, or something that was not correct. We've turned off the t.v.  We've sent back a DVD that isn't appropriate.  Oh well…  In our day we can watch so many things on our own and nobody would know, but the Lord will know and the Holy Ghost knows, and then your spirit knows.  We just do the things that feed and bless the Spirit. It's not that hard."

"Some nights I'm so tired I want to watch something that makes me not think of anything at all, so maybe I'll watch people cooking."


I, myself, fall prey to decorating shows or real estate of the rich and famous. : )

Member Question:  "I was at a Relief Society luncheon where I mentioned that I had a blog and one of the ladies in my ward said, "You blog?"  And then she went on to tell me all the other ways I could be more involved at home and at church, if I just didn't waste so much of my time on the computer. My question:


What do you think about blogging? Do you think I'm wasting my time?


(And of course I'm really listening at this point... but of course my heart already knows the answer.)

Sister Beck:

Video: Sister Beck on Blogging


"I think we need to think back in time about how women communicate. Blogging is a way to communicate with somebody who doesn't live next to you or isn't in your same neighborhood. When I was a young mother we spent time on the phone, a lot. I remember calling a friend or a sister and saying, "help me clean my house" and then we would talk while we cleaned -- and then we'd say "thanks, my house is clean" and we'd hang up. Women have always connected to each other. In the days of ancient scripture they would gather at the well and they'd exchange information, opinions and ideas. 


Martha Washington spent two or three hours a day writing letters and that journaling and writing letters was part of the daily life of a woman, in her day, who had the means and the time to spend that. So she made a lot of connections in writing in those ways. But the need to communicate is not new. In my mother's day they would go out to the backyard, hang up their laundry and share information over the back fence. So again, it's the principles behind this -- how much time is it taking? 


I just read a study that said young mothers are spending about three hours a day blogging because it makes them feel more connected and less isolated as they are making this transition between being an independent person to being a mother. Three hours?  I don't know. Is that too long to spend away from your family and your children and what's happening? Are you to the neglect of fixing dinner and nurturing people and putting children down for naps?  Just like watching t.v. shows, it can draw you in one after another, so can a blog draw you in one after another. Some people might need to set timers and say, "I'll spend a half hour on my blog and when the timer goes off I'm finished".  Or, "I can do 10 minutes, or I can invest this much -- this is my one day this week I am going to work on this". But again, it isn't the blog,  per say, that is the problem. Women have always needed to do this kind of thing. It's a new medium. So, how are you using that time? What's it doing to invite the Spirit? And maybe we can talk about some other things about that, too. It's an opportunity."

Member Question:  "I listened to a talk by Elder Ballard and he really encouraged us to use the Internet to share the gospel.  So in the past I started a blog and a Facebook account but I found that I spent too much time on them and I'd get distracted by them. My question for you is how can we use the Internet to share the gospel and be a force for good without getting caught up in the time consuming trap of the Internet?  

Sister Beck:


Video: Sister Beck Blogging for Good



"Again, who's driving this? Are you in control or is the blogging in control? We have our agenda and our agenda should be the Lord's agenda -- which is to prepare ourselves for the blessings of eternal life and help other people receive the blessings of eternal life. If you study section one of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord says: I need faith to increase in the earth. I need to establish my covenant. He talks about people who don't give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles and have strayed from the Lord's ordinances and they seek not the Lord, or to establish His righteousness -- and every man walketh in his own way in the image of his own god. Now, a blog could do that, but if we are walking in the image of 'our' God and we're walking in His way, then His Spirit will guide us and help us prioritize this work.

The scriptural example of a great blogger, so to speak, is Abish.  Abish is someone who had a personal conversion, a personal testimony, and then when the opportunity was right she went from house to house telling people and collecting them in front of the missionaries. So the principle is great. Blogging is a new opportunity. It also comes with a responsibility. A lot of people dived in with the idea of the opportunity, without recognizing it has this other side of the sword. There is a responsibility and an accountability that comes with it. 

Another quote that I would teach from this is one that President Kimball gave and we read it in "Daughters in My Kingdom". This is a quote all the sisters should know, where he says: 

"Much of the major growth that is coming to the Church in the last days will come because many of the good women of the world (in whom there is often such an inner sense of spirituality) will be drawn to the Church in large numbers. This will happen to the degree that the women of the Church reflect righteousness and articulateness in their lives and to the degree that the women of the Church are seen as distinct and different—in happy ways—from the women of the world."

"Where does a blog fit into this? Think about the influence Latter-day Saint women could have if they are articulate. Not just about anything, but they are articulate about the things they stand for, which are encapsulated here (holding up Daughters in My Kingdom) and in the scriptures. If they can express their faith. If they can express what families mean to them. If they can serve in a way to seek out and help those who are in need of those covenants and ordinances and the blessings of the gospel in a distinct and different and happy ways, from the women of the world -- those are some principles.

So we look at, one, the time --  the amount of time it takes. It shouldn't distract us from the essentials or the necessaries, but is something that we can do to share the gospel if it is focused correctly. What is the tone of our conversation on a blog? I've read a lot of blogs, just to become acquainted with this. Are we representing ourselves as harried, as silly, as distracted? Or are we representing ourselves as who we really are?  Latter-day Saint women are generally well informed, intelligent -- we're challenged by our life experiences, but we triumph. We are problem solvers -- we know how to do that. So we come from a long line of strong, faithful, purposeful women. Some of the stories in here (Daughters in My Kingdom) can maybe influence the tone of how we represent ourselves. 

This is a great opportunity, but we also have the responsibility. We're accountable for managing it in a way that will bless others and will show us as being distinct and different in happy ways. 

Mormon Channel: Comments on how Sister Beck shared that her mother communicated back in her day, but that the stakes are much higher between those two activities because what we said over the fence, there's no record of it, there's no record that exist, but what you write on the Internet it last forever and it is always searchable and people, thousands and thousands of people have access to that, not just one person that you have a conversation with. And so it means the stakes are higher.

Sister Beck:

"They are higher. And we will be accountable for that. If you read 2 Nephi 26 -- this is a sobering one, when we're talking about blogs. I hope sisters look at this and think about this in terms of this opportunity -- and I'm calling it an opportunity, that in verse 29 the Lord commanded that there shall be no priestcrafts, "For behold priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world that they may get gain and praise of the world, but they seek not the welfare of Zion". Then we hear a little bit more, "but the laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion". We've covenanted to give all that we have to help the Lord and bless His kingdom. 

There is such an opportunity to build and labor for Zion, to help the Lord establish His Kingdom on the earth and I think that our women understand in their heart about this covenant we've made in the temple -- to help the Lord build His Kingdom. What a chance...

Before we close and as we talk about this covenant keeping, I'd like to also read a quote on page 66 in "Daughters in My Kingdom", from President Joseph F. Smith. This provides some great guidance and leadership. We are all part of this Relief Society so the focus is on 'relief' -- that we're helping. Relief means to lift and make better. President Smith said he didn't want to see the time when our Relief Societies would follow or co-mingle and lose their own identity by mixing up with these women-made organizations that are coming to pass. So think in terms of blogs in this.  He said "It is for you to lead  the world and to lead especially the women of the world in everything that is praiseworthy. Everything that is godlike. Everything that is uplifting and that is purifying to the children of men.  You are the head, not the tail. "  So as we look at these opportunities of how to use time, how to evaluate ourselves, we think of the words of prophets. We think of the words of Belle Spafford in here (Daughters in My Kingdom) that says "It's time to get out of the things that don't help us with eternal consequences. 

We are a covenant making people. That means we know what's ahead. We know what we are aiming for -- we are aiming for Eternal life. And it's establishing this climate, this spirit in ourselves where the Spirit can grow and then with that conversion that we have we now have opportunities to show that we are distinct and different in happy ways. We can keep those covenants and we can lead the world in these things. I hope that our sisters will  do that."


To listen to the entire interview with Sister Beck, which I highly recommend, you can do so on the Mormon Channel.

I was so touched by Sister Beck's inspired counsel and direction in this interview. I wish I could personally hug her and thank her for addressing these topics. I will be pondering and praying about so many things that she said, that touch me personally, to better focus what I do as a Mormon blogger  -- and how I spend my own leisure time.


What specifically caught your attention? I would both love and appreciate your thoughts, so please comment.


tDMg
Kathryn Skaggs

Note: Did you know that you can email Sister Beck questions for the Relief Society program on the Mormon Channel at [email protected] and they could be answered in an upcoming Relief Society question and answer episode (she records them monthly). You may also record your question by calling 1-877-MYLDS32 and leave your question.


Fun NEW Ways to Share General Conference Using Social Media
With the April 2012 General Conference only days awayLDS.org have created some cool NEW, and fun, social media tools -- to help you invite others to come listen to living prophets speak.

In blogging about Mormonism I am not, nor do I try to be, the voice of the Church. However, like many other members, I do feel a strong responsibility, and desire, to make sure that I represent what I believe to be mainstream Mormon beliefs -- of which some might refer to as orthodox Mormonism. The only agenda that I have is to help others understand and discuss what the LDS Church teaches and faithful members, as a whole, believe.

How to use the new book Daughters in My Kingdom: The History and Work of Relief Society is now available on LDS.org. Specific training for LDS leaders is the initial focus, but also included in this training are suggestions for how all Mormon Womencan best utilize this Relief Society resource in their own personal study of the gospel, and in their families.

LDS.org: Sharing the Gospel Online - Blogging
"Publishing your life through a blog can be an excellent way to share with the world what being a member of the Church means to you."

Photo used by permission: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

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