My testimony reflects my knowledge that my Heavenly Father knows me, loves me, and blesses me. In my life I have wanted to be in control, perhaps the reaction of being the youngest of six children who had many family members telling me their opinions of how I should live my life. As is often the case, others rarely know what is best for another person but I have learned that my Heavenly Father does.
I have experienced tension in my life between what I felt my Heavenly Father has blessed me with, talents of curiosity and a desire to learn, and Mormon societal expectations. These expectations were voiced by my mother stating that I would not be happy unless I was a wife and a mother. I have indeed found joy in these roles, but also in my role as an individual who loves to research and learn.
I majored in history and then earned a Master of Library Science because it seemed an appropriate degree for a woman. But while working at the Genealogical Society as a librarian, I decided to return to full time studies. I met my future husband, who had already been accepted at the University of Chicago. We married and left for Chicago and we continue to live in the Chicago area after over thirty years. While supporting my husband while he earned his PhD, I decided that I wanted to return to graduate study, and about the time my husband finished I began my own doctoral studies in Ottoman history at the University of Chicago. This was difficult, but what inspired my determination was the knowledge that my Heavenly Father had made this option possible for me. More than once when I thought I would not qualify for a grant I put the matter in the Lord’s hands. In ways that seem miraculous to me despite numerous obstacles, I received my PhD six months before my daughter graduated from high school. While my professional life has never followed a traditional course, I find more opportunities appearing for me than ever before.
I know the Lord wants his daughters to develop their talents, which vary widely from individual to individual. I try to excel as a scholar and as a mother, and while this is challenging it is also fulfilling. I am grateful to my children, who understand that their mother has commitments in addition to mothering. I have been blessed with remarkable children, and I appreciate the love and support of my husband, children, and extended family.
I am grateful for the personal revelation which I have received, which has been a comfort and support to me when I feel discouraged by what some church members express about how they feel others should live their lives. One example of this personal revelation is from my patriarchal blessing. It quotes the scripture “Be thou humble and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand and give thee answer to thy prayers” (Doctrine and Covenants 112:10). It then continues: “I bless you that in your scholastic endeavors your mind may be enlightened and your understanding quickened that you may readily grasp and understand the lessons presented to you.” Toward the end of the blessing it states: “I bless you with health and strength, with vigor of mind and of body and of spirit, that you may live to fill the full measure of your creation here upon the earth and have joy, peace, happiness and satisfaction therein.” I am striving to live up to my blessing “to fill the full measure of [my] creation,” which means in my case to be active in research, writing, and publishing, as well as being a wife and a mother.
Christine Isom-Verhaaren received her PhD in 1997, from the University of Chicago. She teaches History and Global Studies at Benedictine University in Lisle, Illinois, near Chicago. She is the author, among other publications, of Allies with the Infidel: The Ottoman-French Alliance in the Sixteenth Century (2011) and is currently researching and writing The Sultan’s Fleet.
Posted February 2011