29 April 2009

A Thought From my Scripture Study

"In our Savior’s great intercessory prayer recorded in the seventeenth chapter of John, he prayed for us, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent” (John 17:3). Then he spoke of the Apostles and of the believers of that time: “For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me” (John 17:8). The kind of knowing which came to Christ’s Apostles and other believers of that time was a gift of the Spirit, but note the importance of the words which Christ conveyed to them orally, which then were conveyed by them to any who would hear their testimonies, and later are conveyed to us as written testaments. The reality of God and Christ and our relationship to them comes to us through a chain of knowing conveyed by words, even holy words, and by the Holy Spirit.

It is because of our awareness of the importance of words in transmitting redeeming truths to one another that Relief Society has embarked on an effort to encourage learning by offering help with basic reading skills to those who need them and by motivating those of us who now read to read more meaningfully.

Being able to read well and with understanding is an important path to knowing God, and it is a reliable and universal way. I call it universal because as human beings we are all born with a genetic endowment for recognizing and formulating language. It is just one of the wonderful ways we are! Our Creator meant for us to value and develop our ability to communicate with him and with each other. He expects us to use these capacities to learn righteous ways, to lift one another, and to develop our divine natures."

-Aileen H. Clyde, “Charity and Learning,” Ensign, Nov 1994, 94 (emphasis added)

27 April 2009

Changes and Developments

Chapter 39
Laurie stops his aimless wandering to spend time with Amy; hoping to enjoy the familiarity that a friendly face provides, he sticks around for a while. However, Amy, upon seeing the lazy state he is in, gives Laurie a piece of her mind, but then feels bad when she realizes that this change in Laurie was caused by Jo turning him down. However, Laurie takes her reproaches to heart and he begins to transform himself, little by little.

Chapter 40
In this chapter, our dear Beth passes away. This had been some time coming, so she and the family were ready for this. I thought it was a shame that they didn't tell Amy.. yes, distance is a factor, and time in Europe is a wonderful and rare opportunity, but so is saying good bye to a loved one.

I read this chapter while at work.. hehe. I knew it was coming, but I still had to blink back tears as I read Jo's poem to Beth; it was so sweet and heartfelt. Happily, I was successful in not crying over my keyboard and I didn't have to explain to anyone why it was I was suddenly all weepy :)

Chapter 41
I admit I had to roll my eyes a little at the opening sentence of this chapter.
"Amy's lecture did Laurie good, though, of course, he did not own it till long afterward. Men seldom do, for when women are the advisers, the lords of creation don't take the advice till they have persuaded themselves that it is just what they intended to do. Then they act upon it, and, if it succeeds, they give the weaker vessel half the credit of it. If it fails, they generously give her the whole."
These sorts of sayings, or schools of thought strike me as very silly; things women say (when they feel men get all the credit) so they will feel like they are important too. It's like that silly saying "Men are the head of the house, but the woman is the neck and she can turn the head anyway she wants." Bah.

But anyway, enough of my rantings, in this chapter we see the effects of Amy's strong words. Laurie feels that he must make something of himself, so he goes about it in various ways. He tries to use Jo as a focus, but finds himself inspired by golden haired heroines instead.

I kind of liked the sweet, subtle way that the romance between Amy and Laurie is developing. I agree with Ritsumei in that I think they will be very happy, though I too am curious to see what the reactions back home will be.

22 April 2009

New Beginnings

Chapter 39: Laurie, lazing around Europe, spends some time with Amy, who gives him a piece of her mind, not realizing that he & Jo have had words. She then feels terrible about it; but the "damage" is already done: he decides to shape up.

Chapter 40: Beth dies. It's a very sweet chapter. I actually cried more over learning that she was going to die, than I did over the actual dieing, strangely enough. One thing that just makes my heart ache is the decision not to tell Amy that Beth was as sick as she was, so she doesn't get a chance to say her goodbyes. While I do understand the reasoning: Amy's in Europe and there's not going to be another opportunity like this, it seems to me that she should have been included in the decision making process, and known what she was sacrificing for her stay in Europe.

Chapter 41: This is the story of Laurie and Amy's love, and it's far more satisfying than the past several chapters, and much nicer than I thought it would be. I think I'm finally coming to terms with Jo's rejection of Laurie. If she "begged him to be happy with somebody else," then she's not in love with him. It was the thought of Andy with someone else that made me realize that I was in love when we were dating. The growth that Laurie finally allows in this chapter is also a wonderful thing. All through the book he's been a bit flighty, and the Marches have seen his better potential and encouraged him to find it for himself. Now, he finally is. He and Amy will likely be very happy together. It will be interesting to see what Mrs. March has to say about Amy marrying him, as she didn't seem very keen on him at all when it was Jo he was courting!

20 April 2009

Pressing On

I like that we're working on catching up; I find that after that last bunch of chapters my momentum is lagging. I'll probably see if I can't do another batch in the next couple of days before it runs out altogether. Josh is bringing the next Work & Glory book on Thursday...

Chapter 36: Beth is dying. She and Jo talk about it during their trip to the seashore, and it is obvious to Father and Mother when the girls return home. I cried my way through this chapter.

Thou shalt live together in love, insomuch that thou shalt weep for the loss of them that die, ... And it shall come to pass that those who die in me shall not taste of death, for it shall be sweet unto them.
D&C 42:45,47

Chapter 37: Amy and Laurie meet in France at Christmastime and enjoy each other's company much more than either one of them expected to. As Kate said, the writing is on the wall.

Chapter 38: This chapter might be called "Meg Makes a Mess." While the lesson included is a good point, I have a hard time with the idea that Meg, former governess, is so completely unwilling to shape her own children's behavior! The indulgent parenting depicted is completely over-the-top and out of step with everything that she would have learned at home. Can you imagine sensible Marmee bribing her little ones into the behavior she wants? Meg should know better. However, the rest of it is completely believable. It's downright hard to find the right balance when babies come. They're such little sponges for attention! They're cute, cuddly, and helpless, and it's easy to neglect your husband. Mrs. March was in much better form with her advice and help this time. And I notice that it was accepted (unlike the jam debacle), so perhaps both John and Meg have learned a bit in the 2 years or so that they've been working on their marriage!


Well, for once I can't say that I enjoyed the chapters we've read. Jo is making a terrible mess, and it's not pretty to watch.

Chapter 33: This is letters home to Jo's family, which, for some odd reason includes, specifically, "a young man by the name of Teddy." Seems rather unkind, as she's gone away specifically to give him a chance to fall out of love with her. The sad thing is, she doesn't even know she's toying with him.

Chapter 34: Jo and the Professor get better acquainted. The Professor shows some jealousy toward Laurie's place in Jo's affections. Jo gives up writing sensational stories because they bother her conscience. It doesn't hurt that the Professor doesn't like them and she's sure that Mother and Father would also disapprove.

Chapter 35: Jo returns home, attends Laurie's graduation, then turns him down when he proposes marriage. Laurie decides to go abroad with his grandfather.

While Kate commented on Laurie's behaviors being less than ideal, which some of them are, I don't think that it would be as bad as Jo thinks it would be. Look at her reasons for not marrying him:

I agree with Mother that you and I are not suited to each other, because our quick tempers and strong wills would probably make us very miserable, if were so foolish as to --" ...
"Marry - no, we shouldn't!" If you loved me, Jo, I should be a perfect saint, for you could make me anything you like."
"No, I can't. I tried it and failed, and I won't risk our happiness by such a serious experiment. We don't agree and we never shall, so we'll be good friends all our lives, but we won't go and do anything rash."

Thing is, Jo has been able to influence Laurie, and he's influenced her. The fact that she wants to "be good friends all our lives" says to me that there's more to her feelings than she's allowing herself to see. Instead of asking herself what life would look like without him, she's acting based on fear that things won't be perfect. She's repeating the things her Mother said (which I still maintain was really bad advice) because she's afraid of getting married, afraid to change, and afraid of not being good enough. Look at what she says a little later:

"I'm homely and awkward and odd and old, and you'd be ashamed of me, and we should quarrel ... and I shouldn't like elegant society and you would, and you'd hate my scribbling, and I couldn't get on without it, and we should be unhappy, and wish we hadn't done it, and everything would be horrid!"

The problem isn't really Laurie at all, the problem is within Jo herself. What Laurie should have done is keep up with the changes that he's made, and see how they fit over the long term. Really, is longer hair that big of a deal? As changes go, that one seems rather trivial. Playing billiards also seems like a pretty little thing. The other change he seems to have made is working harder than before. While this is a bigger deal, I don't see the harm in bettering yourself, regardless of the cause. What Laurie lacks, and I think the thing that really costs him the girl in the end, is patience. He should never have proposed when he knew she was going to say no! He should have invited her to do fun things with him, to spend time with him. He should have made himself indispensable to her, and given her time to see that marriage, based on a good friendship like theirs, could be a wonderful and beautiful thing. Who knows what a year of learning his grandfather's business and continued friendship might have done for him. But instead of waiting for a better time, he forced her to tell him that she didn't want to marry, and thus dashed his hopes. I think that Jo herself realized, at the very end of the chapter, that it was the end of something special:

Ah, but it wasn't all right, and Jo did mind, for while the curly head lay on her arm a minute after her hard answer, she felt as if she had stabbed her dearest friend, and when he left her without a look behind him, she knew the boy Laurie never would come again.

17 April 2009

Keeping with the Keepin' On...

Alrighty, so I know I just posted an installment yesterday, but I thought (since we'd talked about doing double for a while to catch up a little bit) I'd do another one today.

Chapter 36
Life is full of difficult truths. In this chapter, we explore the frailty of this human condition. Our dear Beth is fading before Jo's very eyes. With the money that Jo made during her summer in New York, she takes Beth on a trip to the seashore. While she enjoyed their time together, the trip did not have the effect that Jo was hoping for; Beth was still sick.
Beth is sick but at peace. She has found comfort in a faith that the Lord "could teach and strengthen heart and spirit for this life and the life to come. She did not rebuke Jo with saintly speeches, only loved her better for her passionate affection, and clung more closely to the dear human love, from which our Father never means us to be weaned, but through which He draws us closer to Himself."

Chapter 37
There's nothing like a rebound relationship to cure a broken heart. Ok, I don't actually think that applies in this case, but it was sure fun to say :)

So our boy, Laurie, has been wandering Europe listlessly for who knows how long, wallowing in self-pity and idleness (as he is wont to do) and then he meets up with fair Amy.

Again, knowing something of the plot (from having seen the movie), I can see where things are going and I recognize that this foreknowledge probably heavily influences my opinions of our story. But I can't help but notice that Laurie has taken a new notice of little Amy.

Amy is not blind to the changes in Laurie, though she is unaware of their cause. Laurie is taller, older and quite handsome, even if a little broody and a mite artificial, and she found herself "conscious of a very natural desire to find favor in his sight". So she got all cuted-up (and it will be noted that he did as well) and they met again that evening for a party. Her efforts did not go unnoticed, or unappreciated and throughout the night they talked and the result was that Laurie found himself liking her more and more and "devoted himself to her for the rest of the evening in the most delightful manner; but the impulse that wrought this agreeable change was the result of one of the new impressions which both of them were unconsciously giving and receiving."

Initially when they met, Laurie was aloof and not quiet himself (as Amy remembered him). But, it seems that seeing Amy sparked a change in Laurie that day, almost on the subconscious level. He spoke more genuinely, he sat up straighter.. not because he thought she wanted it of him, but because he wanted to. By that, I feel, we are witness to the very beginnings of what is to come. And, I think, it's a surer foundation for these things to be built upon.

Chapter 38
I thought this was a very sweet chapter. I really enjoyed the dynamics presented and the lessons learned by Meg and John. And I was heartened to see that it lead to a better division of labor.

Meg was feeling overwhelmed and stressed and essentially neglecting her husband in her devotion to caring for her children, whom they both loved dearly. To compensate, John took to having dinner at a friend's house and talking politics. When this finally penetrated Meg's frazzled brain, she was sad but didn't want to appear a clinging wife so she didn't say anything but became increasingly stressed and despondent.

Eventually, the wise Mrs. March stepped in and offered some hard-earned advice. She pointed out that, while she was sympathetic to Meg's feelings of being neglected, it was actually Meg's actions that had largely brought about these circumstances; by devoting herself 100% to the kids and never sparing a moment for her husband she had sent a message she had not intended to send. Mrs. March said, "Don't neglect husband for children, don't shut him out of the nursery, but teach him how to help in it. His place is there as well as yours, and the children need him. Let him feel that he has a part to do, and he will do it gladly and faithfully, and it will be better for you all."

And in implementing it, Meg found it to be sound advice. Her coddling her children was causing them to walk all over her, and John was willing to be stern and let the children understand that there needed to be boundaries in all things, even bed-times. Once a clearer law was established, and the parents remembered to think of each other as individuals as well as parents, peace was restored and the home became a haven of love and support that even those outside the family noticed and enjoyed partaking in.

These are wise words of counsel and something that I think would be good to keep in mind as I go forward with life.Who doesn't want a home like that?

16 April 2009

The Winds of Change

Chapter 33
In this chapter, we read about Jo's adventures as she begins her summer in New York. It seems that the boarding house is a bit of a change for her; it is big and full of strangers, she does have some homesickness and mainly keeps to herself and really only talks to Mrs. Kirke and the kids she's teaching. However, Jo is still Jo and she takes great interest in her surroundings and finds pleasure in "people watching"; the most interesting tenant is Professor Friedrich Bhaer.

Considering our recent discussions about who we think Jo should marry, I admit I paid extra attention to the descriptions of Professor Bhaer that Jo used. He intrigues her; he's intelligent and humble. She thinks very highly of him.

I also find it interesting that, while we don't see any letters that others send to Jo, she does comment on things she has received and it seems that Laurie has gone silent for the summer and doesn't write to her at all while she is away. Is he silent because he's so absorbed in throwing himself into his studies, in "fixing" himself for her? Is he just so certain that she'll come around that he doesn't bother to write?

Chapter 34
Jo begins publishing more of her "trash", and she is not proud of her work, but saves her money and plans grand things for Beth. She rationalizes that, since the money will be spent on good things, it's ok that she writes things that she's ashamed to put her name on. Also, while she didn't notice the subtle changes, writing that stuff, looking for the drama in people, altered the way Jo looked at others, and at life. And not for the better. It is only when she discovers that The Professor doesn't approve that she stops churning out the "sensational" stories and stops writing, temporarily, to ponder what better options and subject matters are out there.

In this chapter we get a deeper glimpse into The Professor's character. He is wise, and sees much.. but he is gentle with his guidance; he inspires Jo to be a better person.

At the end of the chapter, having seen a lot and grown up significantly, Jo returns home.

Chapter 35
This was a rough chapter to read. It was so sad to me to watch Laurie try so hard, feel so strongly, and leave unsuccessful. Still.. I think that Jo was very wise (and brave) to say no, and stick with it.

In an attempt to win Jo's love, Laurie changed many of his behaviors (the ones which Jo disliked). He said, "I worked hard to please you, and I gave up billiards and everything you didn't like, and waited and never complained, for I hoped you'd love me..."

Changing one's behaviors drastically to win over another is a major red-flag to me. While I do think some of those behaviors were best stopped, it wasn't that he was changing and becoming a better man, he simply had an objective and goal that he wished to achieve and altered his behaviors to achieve that. I don't think that there is much substance in his rash promise that "If you loved me, Jo, I should be a perfect saint, for you could make me anything you like." Also, getting married because "Everyone expects it. Grandpa has set his heart upon it, your people like it, and I can't get on without you. Say you will, and let's be happy. Do, do!" would only lead to unhappiness down the road.

To me, Laurie seems to very immature in his thinking in a lot of ways. He's always gotten what he's wanted by being charming and persuasive. He's not a bad guy by any means, but he's not settled in a steady course; he still goes wherever the wind blows him. I think that lots of people want the best for Laurie: His grandfather, all of the Marches, and they offer advice and direction which he frequently takes, but ultimately, I don't think Laurie really knows what Laurie wants out of life, yet.

It made my heart ache to read about Laurie's struggles after that; as he wrestled with the emotions of a broken heart. Unrequited love is never fun. However, I applaud Jo in her wisdom and being firm in what she knew was right. In that, I believe, she saved them both from much worse heartache later.

06 April 2009

Further Developments...

Chapter 30
I thought this chapter had some interesting ideas present in the circumstances described. I found myself admiring Amy a little more than I have previously. For example, when she and Jo went and did their social calls, I felt that Amy's behavior was a little over the top (as was Jo's, just in the opposite direction) and kind of stilted and unnatural and, over all, a bit confusing and silly. But I feel like, in Chapter 30, things were resolved and the necessity of her actions explained a little.

Originally I thought the social calls very silly and they seemed to me superfluous; why officially visit people you already are friends with? However, since reading this chapter, I now think that their social calls, though very foreign to me, were part of what was expected at that time. Also, from the reactions described in this chapter, it seems very likely that those calls were the first that the people had met personally the March sisters. Perhaps it was like they were "coming out" to society. And while I do feel this was a highly exaggerated example, I think we can learn that it often doesn't sit well with others or help ourselves in future encounters if we poke fun of others and act unnaturally.

Anyway, so Amy had to bear the brunt of peoples' reactions at the fair from Jo's behaviors. But she bore them very well. I liked what she said about her motivations for her non-retributive actions, "I can't explain exactly, but I want to be above the little meannesses and follies and faults that spoil so many women (Chapter 30, pg. 316)."

Chapter 31
While I do find that I am respecting Amy's character more and more, I do still think she's terribly silly. I enjoyed her enthusiastic and bubbly descriptions of the places they had visited, but I didn't care for that whole bit about letting Fred fall in love with her while she will accept, even though not in love; he's wealthy and fond of her and she hates poverty. That doesn't sit well with me. Amy sort of laughs off the idea that she "may be mercenary", but I think it a poor idea to marry for marriage's sake.

Chapter 32
I must admit that I was a little surprised to find a sort of love-triangle in our book. I do feel for Beth; Laurie is so gentle with her, and he is the only man she's not been afraid of, it seems natural that her maturing heart would be drawn to him.... but I don't believe that he thinks of her that way. Rather, it seems he has his eye on our Jo. But again, she doesn't think that way of him. It's a little sad.. It's never pleasant to see love go unrequited. However, I would have to agree with Marmee's assessment of the match with Jo and Laurie, though my reasons are slightly different.

I do agree that Jo, whatever her age, is not in a place where she is interested in or ready for marriage; Jo needs to "enjoy [her] liberty till [she] tires of it (Chapter 32, pg. 339)." There is much good that can come of being single; a strength that can come of such independence. I think Jo had something when she asked her mother on page 339, "...for I couldn't fall in love with the dear old fellow merely out of gratitude, could I?" To that I would answer a resounding NO.

But more importantly, Jo does not really respect Laurie. They are fine friends and have many great adventures together, but at the very core of things, she rather mothers Laurie. In that I feel they are not on equal plains; they would be unequally yoked. That is not the footing any marriage should begin on. Love comes from mutual fondness and deep affection built on a foundation of respect.