Sunday, September 25, 2011

Daughters in My Kingdom: Chapter 1

Relief Society:  A Restoration of an Ancient Pattern

I enjoyed this first chapter in Daughters in My Kingdom regarding the ancient church of Jesus Christ.  The chapter mentioned how Christ "demonstrated deep familiarity with women's lives and drew timeless gospel lessons from their every day experiences." It mentioned that little is known about the early "formal organization of women in the New Testament" and that women "met and prayed together with the Apostles" (p. 3).  The chapter mentioned Mary and Martha and several other stories of women in the NT (p. 4).

I think I came away with several questions after reading this chapter.  I read it under the assumption that women were probably second-class back then (but I'd like to know more), so I found it significant that Christ even acknowledged them.  I also assumed that even men were not so organized back then -- at least there's not much record of it in the NT (well I guess you can look at all the social groups:  pharisees, sadduces, etc., but I don't know how "formal" those groups were, and I guess they wouldn't be considered Christian organizations -- obviously I could study this); at least is seems the only official record of early Christan organization is that of the 12 Apostles. So, to me, it's significant that women were even acknowledged and some men were organized. 

I wonder more about why have women been put down in society so many times?  Are men just more power hungry?  Are they bigger and stronger, so they feel entitled to power?  How much are women mentioned in other writings from this era in history?  Are more women mentioned in the NT than in similar writings?

I've learned to love Paul's counsel to Titus to "encourage older women to serve and teach young women about their eternal roles as wives and mothers. . ." (p. 5).  I'm really coming to appreciate the advice of women who have done this child-raising stuff before.  There is NO reason for me to think I know it all; I can use the advice of older women to my advantage.  Why reinvent the wheel?

I really loved the example of Dorcas/Tabitha and how she made clothes for widows.  I've learned a bit about historical clothing and have learned that clothing was not cheap back then, and obviously labor intensive.  Was she wealthy?  Either way, the time to sew and the cost to purchase goods was surely substantial.  Sounds like she gave her all and the widows loved her (p. 6).

We've always been told that the Relief Society was organized after the pattern of the priesthood.  That's always been a slightly confusing statement to me because RS is not organized into little groups like deacons, teachers, priests, elders, high priests, or Aaronic/Melchizedek Priesthood and we don't seem to have quite the same responsibilities.  We're just organized into one big group of women, and some of us are pulled out of that big group to help in Young Women's or Primary.  However, I've come to interpret the statement as meaning Relief Society is (and was) organized through inspiration; those in leadership positions are set apart; they operate with counselors -- just as most all auxilaries in the church.

An even more clarifying statement was made by Julie Beck at the General RS Meeting last night.  She said something along the lines of the RS being organized after the pattern of discipleship.  I fully expected her to say "the priesthood," but she didn't.  This pattern of discipleship clarifies the role of women. The book states that we are dignified, noble, needed, valued, and serviceable (p. 7) -- qualities of disciples.  The Relief Society is a way for us women to be organized and to act officially in the name of the Church.  If we weren't so organized, I don't believe we'd be able to do as much good.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Nurturing Dads... now this is interesting!

The Deseret News ran this: 

Testosterone drops when men become nurturing dads

Some news reports on the study hinted a drop in testosterone might not be a good thing. "This is probably not the news most fathers want to hear," wrote Pam Belluck in a New York Times story.

"It could almost be demonized," said Gettler to the New York Times. He noted that, instead, "this should be viewed as, 'Oh, it's great, women aren't the only ones biologically adapted to be parents.'"


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Daughters In My Kingdom: Chapter 7

I'm done!  I'm done, I'm done!  I finished this wonderful little book!  I read the chapters that seemed most interesting to me first, leaving "'Pure Religion' Watchcare and Ministering through Visiting Teaching" for last, BUT this has actually been my most favorite chapter, so, I'm going to write about it first!

I loved the examples of Visiting Teaching and learned so much about the goals of Visiting Teaching.  After all the lessons, and lessons, and lessons on Visiting Teaching, I didn't think I could learn anymore.

I loved learning how VTing got started:  "RS leaders appointed a visiting committee of four sister for each ward.  [Their] most visible responsibilities were to assess needs and collect donations. . . .  Generally the sisters who were assigned to go visiting went with baskets in hand, receiving items such as matches, rice, baking soda, and bottles of fruit. . . " (106).  Now maybe I knew this and had forgotten, but could you imagine going Visiting Teaching and asking for money and goods!?  It's cool they they did this, but I'm glad I don't have to!  I also thought, 4 women?  That really is quite a burden to visit all the women in a ward with only 4!

I liked reading how Eliza R. Snow "counseled visiting teachers to prepare themselves spiritually before they visited homes so they would be able to ascertain and meet spiritual needs as well as temporal ones. . . ." (108). I don't know if Eliza R. Snow was a visiting teacher at the time of this instance from the life of my great-great grandmother after her husband died as recorded by her brother, but Eliza's actions demonstrate being guided by the Spirit:

One day Sister Eliza Snow with Sister Smoot took a walk together, when they came to my Sisters house in the 20th ward, she felt impressed to call in.  My mother was in the house at the time attending to Margaret, Sister Snow had never been in the house before, she did not know that Margaret was sick, she was led by the spirit of the Lord, she laid her hands on Margaret’s head and blessed her., that she would live and the Angels of God would preserve her.  Her enemies would not have any power over her and she would conquior her enemies.  Her words seemed to strenghten her faith and she began to amend from that time, and prospered.  She also blessed my mother. . .  (page 30 of Gibson Condie's Diary -- typescript.  A holograph can be found at the FHL in SLC, the years are 1864-65).
I also read in the chapter an example about a woman who "had been detailed by the Relief Society . . . to watch over and administer to the sick woman. . . ."  In modern day, we would interpret "administer" as just "minister" or "care for"; however, I wonder if in that instance, it was to actually bless, just as Eliza R. Snow blessed my great-great grandma.  (For more on the topic, see Stapley, Jonathan A. and Wright, Kristine, Female Ritual Healing in Mormonism (January 1, 2011). Journal of Mormon History, Vol. 37, pp. 1-85, Winter 2011. Available at SSRN:  Daughters in My Kingdom does not go into the topic of "female ritual healing," which I would like to know more about from an official Church standpoint, but this is at least a start in understanding the topic.

In 1916, VTers were "asked to discuss a gospel topic each month as well as providing a temporal service" (108).  I know we often leave VTing assignments with a "Let us know if there's anything we can do to help!" but what if we actually took that seriously as an ASSIGNMENT to provide a temporal service?  Wow.  If we did this, I think we'd better connect as sisters through temporal work, just was we should connect with our children/families through physical labor.  I think we'd also open up emotionally more than we do.

In 1944 (8 years after the start of the Church's Welfare plan), the assignment of RS sisters collecting funds was discontinued (108).  That did make a lot of sense because it was as though there were two Welfare plans:  RS Welfare and Church Welfare.  With the consolidation, things would be more efficient.    I don't know when collection of Fast Offerings came about, but, again, it seems like an unnecessary duplication of efforts from the brothers and the sisters.  Even today, the RS President still plays a BIG role in the Welfare plan, just as she did a long time ago.

I enjoyed the section on seeking spiritual guidance and was reminded to do better in that area (114).  I also liked the Questions Visiting Teachers Can Ask on page 115.  They are pretty personal, but if we go about first being a friend to those we visit teach, then those are natural questions from a friend to a friend.

1.  What worries or concerns do you have?
2.  What questions do you have about the gospel or Church?
3.  Would you allow us to help you with _____?  Note, it doesn't say, "Let us know if we can help! :) :)"

I liked Sister Smoot's advice:  "My desire is to plead with our sisters to stop worrying about a phone call or a quarterly or monthly visit . . . and concentrate instead on nurturing tender souls" (117).

I loved Pres. Kimball's quote:  "You are going to save souls, and who can tell but that many of the fine active people in the Church today are active because you were in their homes. . ." (117).  I've witnessed this and know it to be true.  I'll have to have my friend write a post about it.

Reading about the great efforts of visiting teachers from the past encourages me to be a better visiting teacher.  I'm impressed at how temporal visiting teaching was, yet now the main focus seems to be spiritual.  I loved the stories in this chapter; they were so encouraging and made me cry.  Overall, I think the feel I got from this chapter is to be a friend with a Gospel message.  I think we do a pretty good job at showing up, but do we really connect?  Do we really show we care?  Do we show real charity?  That is what I need to focus on.  Wonderful chapter; so much great stuff in it.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Sexualization in Society

These two articles from the Deseret News were just too good to pass up.  Kudos to the Deseret News for publishing them.

The end of innocence: The cost of sexualizing kids

A few quotes from both articles:

"As a society, we know more about women who look good than we know about women who do good," (first article).

(The rest are from the 2nd article.)

While saying no is a natural parental instincts, he says the optimal approach is to help their child understand why a certain TV show or piece of clothing is not OK. "You'd be surprised at how reasonable children can be when rules are accompanied by an explanation," he says. "Children are always learning. If they're not learning from their mothers or fathers, they are going to learn from other sources."


Jenny Wykstra, a registered nurse from West Jordan, has figured out a way to help guide her three children without just saying something is bad or wrong.

She watches TV with her teens, 15, 14 and 13. And she pays attention to what they are looking at on the computer. When something sets off the alarm bells in her brain — and it happens a lot — she asks them questions.
"Wow, check out that girl's outfit. What do you think of it?"

She's genuinely interested, she says. But she's also guiding them through a process of analyzing things critically. "What do you think they're trying to sell?" she asks when a model runs her fingers through her luxurious hair for a shampoo commercial. "Is it just shampoo?"


Levin traces the introduction of the "sexualized childhood" to the mid-1980s deregulation of TV ads for children by the Federal Communications Commission, which allowed development of toys directly related to programming.


"What's going on here in 21st Century America is a war of values," wrote Annie Fox, a Cornell graduate who has written several books on teens. "On one side, parents doing their best to raise healthy young adults. And what are we up against? The marketing might of multi-billion dollar corporations. You probably don't need anyone to tell you who's winning."


"One girl told me [dressing provocatively] made her feel wanted," Evert says. "I told her, 'What are you hoping for — to be gawked at or to be loved? What do you want to be wanted for? If a guy really cares, he should want you for more than your body parts. I always tell the girls 'You will never convince boys of your dignity until you convince yourself.' "


On Aug. 31, 1,600 people used the Internet to protest a shirt being sold on JC Penney's website. The $10 shirt was emblazoned with "I'm Too Pretty to Do Homework, So My Brother Has to Do It for Me." The ad copy with it said, "Who has time for homework when there's a new Justin Bieber album out? She'll love this tee that's just as cute and sassy as she is."

Within four hours of the launch of an online petition drive by, JC Penny yanked the shirt off its shelves, overwhelmed by the response.


And of course, there were several quotes/references to the Kite sisters from Beauty Redefined!  Go girls!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Daughters in My Kingdom: Foreword and Preface

I've been having a fun time reading the new Daughters in My Kingdom book.  Is that sick and wrong?  Fun?  When you really like history, yes, it is (usually) fun to read history.  I've also been torn because I'm writing a chapter on an ancestor for Women of Faith in the Latter-days, Volume 2.  I really need to be working on that, but I also really want to be reading this and blogging about it. And, I don't know how many people actually read this blog, but I'm 15 weeks pregnant, and of course, that makes everything just a little bit more complicated.

Anyway, enough about me, on with the book.  Kathryn at a Well-Behaved Mormon Woman posted her initial thoughts on the book, but I wanted to do more of a chapter-by-chapter review on the book.  Well, I don't know if  review is the right word, but I wanted to share my thoughts like Stephanie does about General Conference over at Diapers and Divinity.  If you feel so inclined to share your thoughts, please do, or even share a link to your own posts.  It's fun to discuss -- especially for those of us who don't get to go to RS -- not that this will necessarily be taught in RS, but it might on occasion.

As the blog post title indicates, I wanted to comment on the foreword and the preface.

I liked how the First Presidency message in the foreword mentioned that we women are "dedicated disciples."  How lovely is that?  Just like Mary and Martha and other women in the scriptures.

When I read that we "help strengthen families and build up the kingdom," I realized that women without their own families may have a hard time with this, but the strengthening doesn't have to be in one's own family.  We can help and support other people's families (the book goes on in a later chapter to address this in more detail).  Coming from someone who has a family of her own, I'm sure this can sound very insensitive to someone who does not have a family and wants one.  I can only imagine how hard that must be, but honestly, yes, we young moms with little kids would love any help anyone wants to give if you are willing to give it.

I also thought the "strengthen families" phrase really doesn't have to apply to just us in the LDS Church.  We can and need to help strengthen families all over the world.  There are so many good people throughout the globe also in support of the family, and we need to bind together.

OK, this could take a while.  I think I'd better not comment on everything.

I think it is good to remember that "this book is not a chronological history, nor is it an attempt to provide a comprehensive view of all that the Relief Society has accomplished" (xii).  As I have read, I find I do want to know more!!  The basics are there, but some of the more confusing/deep stuff is not.  A-ha!  Maybe that's why it's not there -- because it's not clear to anyone in the modern day, so they figured they'd leave it out or just touch on it briefly (such as "female ritual healing" and polygamy).

"We know that women who have deep appreciation for the past will be concerned about shaping a righteous future" (xii).  Amen.  Why I love history.

"...the women of the church have united with men who hold the priesthood to build God's kingdom..." (xii).  We are united -- definitely.  We have to be or the plan will fail.

"The value in this book is not so much in the dates and facts it provides but in the purposes, principles, and patterns it teaches" (xiii).  I believe this book is doing just that.  Why do we have Relief Society?  Of course it would still be nice to have a comprehensive history, but learning the purpose of the Relief Society is a starting point.

I like that the book is written by women (Susan Tanner - xiv) for women.  Some people complain that this isn't a lesson manual for both the men and women, but a lot that's in the book isn't necessarily what men (or women) NEED to know (for salvation), but things that are nice to know.  [9/12/11:  Actually I change my mind on that original statement.  This book IS a WONDERFUL summary of everything we need to know to be WONDERFUL people.  We can find all these principles all over the Gospel, but this book wraps them all up in one tight little package.  So, yes, you could use the book as a manual for men and women, you'd just have to expand on it with A LOT more detail.]  My husband has also enjoyed me sharing parts of this book with him before we go to bed at night -- I think some men will love to read it, whereas, some men will probably find it kind of boring, just as some women will.

I also like the extensive use of references in this book.  Some Church publications (at least older ones) lack sources and it drives me nuts.  I also like that Sister Tanner was given credit for this book.  I love knowing who did the work behind a project.

"Church members of all ages may use the book as a reference in lessons, talks, and council meetings" (xiv).  I've heard a couple times people say that quotes by women just aren't as credible as quotes from the "Brethren."  The first time someone said that, I was quite taken aback.  I didn't really believe them, but just to be safe, I stopped using quotes from sisters.  The quote above affirms to me that, yes, it is okay to use quotes from sisters.  Thank goodness.  I mentioned this to my mom and she wondered how the women wouldn't be taken as seriously as the men.  Yes, that's the type of family I grew up in.  If a quote is from General Conference, it's from General Conference, does it matter if a man or woman said it?  So yes, lots and lots of women quotes in this book.

Apparently Lucile Tate and Elaine Harris (xiv) wrote a history of the RS starting in 1996, but it was unpublished and kept as a resource in Church archives.  Wouldn't it be wonderful if it were someday published?  I'd love to read that!