Turns out that Julie B. Beck lives in the same ward as the people who run our stake, so this last week we got President Beck fireside! I was actually really impressed with it. I say "actually" because when I was in the MTC she came to conduct a "Relief Society" with all the sisters and she kept doing really annoying things like asking an open-ended question looking for a specific answer. ("How can we become closer to Christ?" "Service?" "No.") But this fireside was like the complete opposite.
She started out by doing a sort of survey of the sisters. How many of us were RMs? How many of us were converts? How many of us were from outside the US? How many of us were going through difficult challenges? ("Only half? Well, just wait," she said.) Then she told us that we're doing this by the Spirit and opened the floor for questions.
Straight off the bat, someone asks about getting married. Beck responded with vigor and optimism. This is not the time for us to be skeptical and scared. She asked us how old we were. She scoffed. She told us that "if you have faith, the Lord will feed you faith. If you doubt, Satan will open more doubts." Rousing stuff, really.
She dealt similarly adroitly to questions women had about working and raising a family ("you choose eternal life... some women work and get off track, some work and are going straight the Celestial Kingdom"), divorce ("Temple marriage is a chance; some people blow it"), academic and career success ("When we die, we aren't buried with our credentials [...] it's not all about getting ahead and beating someone else"), lightmindedness ("don't be silly women [...] use the brain and the Spirit you were given to make right choices") and she even addressed the miniskirts-and-leggings question with grace and tact--she changed it into a policy question into a principles question.
"Where are they wearing these leggings?" she asked. The girl thought about it: "Uh....on their legs?" But then Beck talked about why we dress the way we do for Church, and reverence for covenants, and principles and by the time the answer was over, the question was no longer just about fashion and modesty.
I was floored. Of all abilities, I am most impressed by someone who is able to give a smart answer to a dumb question. Dean Duncan is very good at this. So is Sherri Dew, as I found out when she came to BYU to talk about publishing and someone asked a question that essentially boiled down to "Isn't Harry Potter awesome?" I don't remember her response, but it was respectful and edifying for everyone in attendance. I remember thinking, "How'd she learn to do that?" From this Julie B Beck fireside, looks like being a representative of the general auxilories helps a lot. It's cool to have watched someone learn from their calling even when it's a very visible calling. Hurrah for eternal progression!