Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Daughters in My Kingdom: Chapter 3

I'm really going to make it through posting my notes/thoughts/questions regarding Daughters in My Kingdom one of these days.  This post shouldn't be long.  Chapter 3 - "Cleave unto the Covenants" Exodus, Migration, and Settlement was pretty straight forward.

In the chapter we learn that before 1846 the "formal organization of the Female Relief Society was discontinued. . . " (29).  That is sad, but the sisters still did work to help others, just not in such an organized fashion.  The book does not mention reasons the RS was discontinued, but as far as I understand, at least one reason was that Brigham Young was upset that Emma Smith was teaching against polygamy at RS meetings.  I apologize that I can't cite that reference, but I'm going to guess it was one of the podcasts on the Mormon Channel.  I'm just guessing there because I don't go seeking out anti-LDS literature, so I probably heard it from a pretty safe source -- but, I could be wrong.  It would be nice to know additional reasons for the discontinuation, and we could guess some reasons.  I'd have to figure that the Church was just trying to simplify at the time as they were leaving Nauvoo, and there just wasn't the strength and time to continue the organization.

It's amazing that "More than 5,000 Saints thronged the Nauvoo Temple after its dedication so they could receive the endowment and sealing ordinance. . ." (29).  Can't you imagine the excitement of receiving this newly revealed knowledge and protection before this long trek West?  It would give me so much strength.  I do wonder if the Saints were scared and if the temple would give me more courage BOTH temporally AND spiritually.

As the above quote mentions, people were sealed, and I'm reminded of V.H. Cassler's Polygamy article where she mentions that often women were sealed to Church General Authorities to assure their salvation, while husbands were sealed as children to the union created between the woman and the GA.  I wonder if that is some of what was happening in Nauvoo.  If you're unfamiliar with the LDS Church today, that's not the way we do it anymore.  A husband and wife are sealed (bound for eternity) to each other, and children born into that union are automatically sealed (tied for eternity) to their parents.

On page 31, we learn that "during the migration, the ratio of men to women and children was low."  "'Few men were left to raise grain and vegetables and protect he women and children. . . .'  The Saints were blessed by priethood power. . . .  They were also sustained by the sisters' faith in God, charity, strength, and prayers.  With illness rampant, the sisters served as doctors and nurses to their own families and to one another. . . ."  Although the book does not mention it, here could be a good time to remember the practice of "female ritual healing" (as written by Stapley & Wright) where the women actually did bless those in need -- not through an actual priesthood blessing, but more through a faith blessing.  Heather at Women in the Scriptures taught a lesson that touched on healing/blessings given by women, if you want to read it.  (1/15/12 update:  Also, D.H. Oaks addresses women giving blessings in the early days of the Church in a address from 1992 and reminds us that the church was not fully organized at that point in time:  there were no temples. Once the temples were built, these sacred ordinances/blessings would be performed there.)  I'd suppose it was quite a relief to the women to know that they were authorized to bless as needed, particularly if men weren't around to give a priesthood blessing.  It was probably a very empowering feeling.

I suppose a logical explanation for the practice of polygamy can relate here in a couple ways.  With this high ratio of females to males, polygamy allowed women to receive the sealing ordinance before coming west.  If the requirement were 1:1, so many women wouldn't have been able to receive the ordinance.  On a practical note, it seems that polygamy had the potential to bind adult women together as a team (sure some women were already sisters and probably felt like team, but some weren't).  On that arduous trek, wouldn't it be nice to be surrounded by family -- particularly other adults? 

The great Mormon Exodus and settlement in the Salt Lake Valley have always been a favorite topic of mine, so I enjoyed reading the chapter as well as the examples of faithful women in it.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Moral Molecule: Oxytocin

My husband told me about a Ted Talk he listened to recently by Paul Zak on oxytocin.   Apparently oxytocin is the moral molecule -- it makes us connect with people, care about them, empathize with them, trust, be happy, be generous.  It is found only in mammals and is released in women during birth and breastfeeding, and in both men and women during sex.

Zak found, though, that men and women can easily increase their levels of oxytocin through massage, dance, prayer, weddings, social media, and hugs (he suggests 8 hugs/day to make the world a better place).

He also found that 5% of the population don't release oxytocin when stimulated.  One reason as to why people did not produce oxytocin was improper nurturing:  Half of abused women don't release it.  Stress also inhibits it.  Testosterone stunts it.  Men have 10 times more testosterone than women, and therefore, are more selfish; however, even though they are more selfish, they are also more likely to punish others for being selfish.

Zak concludes that the basis for our morality doesn't have to come from God, but from our chemical makeup.  (I say, if God is the Master Scientist, then isn't that an ingenious way to make our morality work?) 

The podcast didn't go into anything regarding fundamental differences between women and men, but I had fun contemplating the implications of the nurture/provide/protect roles of men and women as laid out in The Family:  A Proclamation to the World.  I couldn't find how much more oxytocin women have than men in general, but they do have/make more.  I would assume, then, that women are generally more moral and empathetic.  Is that why women often make better nurturers than men?  Because men have 10x more testosterone and are more selfish and want to punish others for being selfish, does that make them better protectors/better at watching out for their families?

Clearly both sexes can increase their levels of oxytocin, and there is overlap in male/female nurture/provide/protect roles, but chemically it appears there is a tendency for one sex to be a certain way over another, and that is fascinating.


This Ted Talk reminded me of another quote from the Scott article (Honor the Priesthood and Use It Well) from yesterday:
By divine design a woman is fundamentally different from a man in many ways. 2 She is compassionate and seeks the interests of others around her. However, that compassionate nature can become overwhelming for women who identify far more to accomplish than they can possibly do, even with the help of the Lord. Some become discouraged because they do not feel they are doing all they should do. . . .

In the book, Passionate Housewives Desperate for God, the authors suggest that when we women get to this overwhelming point, that we go to our husbands for counsel to figure out how to simplify. I suppose I have a bit of a pride problem here because I want to decide for myself what I can handle and what I can't.  However, I think there is real benefit in his outside perspective, and I should seek his advice more often.

Elder Scott suggests in these times of stress:
Therefore, as a husband or son, express gratitude for what your wife and mother do for you. Express your love and gratitude often. That will make life far richer, more pleasant and purposeful for many of the daughters of Father in Heaven who seldom hear a complimentary comment and are not thanked for the multitude of things they do. As a husband, when you sense that your wife needs lifting, hold her in your arms and tell her how much you love her.

8/27/12 update
I was reading a summary from the Women and the LDS Church conference over at the Juvenile Instructor blog.  I wanted to save this summary here where I won't forget it -- a sociological finding showing some basic differences between men and women, particularly regarding religion.

Session Two presented various analytical approaches to women’s agency in the contemporary church.  David Campbell presented some statistics taken from a recent survey of 500 “active” Mormon men and women.  For one, Campbell and his colleagues found no significant difference between men and women in their level of religiosity and devotion to the LDS Church, as well as a very small difference in both group’s support for an all-male priesthood.  And so, Campbell concluded, from a “sociological perspective, patriarchy works, because it keeps men tied to the religion.”  Some feminist bloggers have already jumped all over this as a kind of apologia for unquestioned patriarchy, but Campbell presented other findings indicating more complexity in Mormon women’s reactions to the their religious experiences.  These included women’s much greater preference for personal revelation over obedience to authority, and female emphasis on “helping others” as a mark of faithfulness over men’s emphasis on “sinlessness.”

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Equal Partners

I'd forgotten this fantastic quote by Richard G. Scott in Honor the Priesthood and Use It Well from October 2008:

The family proclamation states that a husband and wife should be equal partners. I feel assured that every wife in the Church would welcome that opportunity and support it. Whether it occurs or not depends upon the husband. Many husbands practice equal partnership with their companion to the benefit of both and the blessing of their children. However, many do not. I encourage any man who is reluctant to develop an equal partnership with his wife to obey the counsel inspired by the Lord and do it. Equal partnership yields its greatest benefit when both husband and wife seek the will of the Lord in making important decisions for themselves and for their family. . . .

The purpose of priesthood authority is to give, to serve, to lift, to inspire—not to exercise unrighteous control or force. In some cultures, tradition places a man in a role to dominate, control, and regulate all family affairs. That is not the way of the Lord. In some places the wife is almost owned by her husband, as if she were another of his personal possessions. That is a cruel, unproductive, mistaken vision of marriage encouraged by Lucifer that every priesthood holder must reject. It is founded on the false premise that a man is somehow superior to a woman. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The scriptures confirm that Father in Heaven saved His greatest, most splendid, supreme creation, woman, to the end. Only after all else was completed was woman created. Only then was the work pronounced complete and good.

Let's just say I'm grateful for modern-day revelation, and I'm grateful I live in a culture where male/female equality is acceptable.

The Help

The other night my husband I rented, yes rented from the local video store, The Help.  I've always loved Civil Rights and race movies (Remember the Titans, etc.).  I quite enjoyed how the The Help portrayed the domestic/women's side of things during the era. I've never looked at the situation in that light, so it was quite enlightening and refreshing.  Although parts of the film were kind of melodramatic, I loved how it portrayed the potential cattiness of women, yet showed we all struggle and want to fit in, too.  We just don't know what people are going through.

I could have done without the language, but just had to keep thinking back to my Ricks days when the Idaho farm boys used one of those words like it wasn't a cuss word!  Not that I should be justifying it.

So, if you haven't seen it and want a good women's perspective of an era, The Help a great movie; just plug your ears. ;)  The movie could only have been better had it actually been based on a real story.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Daughters in My Kingdom: Chapter 2

So it's been a while since I've written about Daughters in My Kingdom.  I'm sick with a cold and probably food poisoning, so it will give me something to do.  Chapter 2 is entitled, '"Something Better" The Female Relief Society of Nauvoo.' How appropriate as I'm missing our ward RS dinner tonight I can reflect on the history of the RS.

I've always wondered what it meant to "organize the women . . . after the pattern of the priesthood" (12) (1/15/12 update - DH Oaks gave a great talk relating to this.).  It's still not totally clear to me, but one way was that the women who were asked to serve were set apart through a blessing, just as men are ordained to the priesthood -- not something that would happen in other women's groups of the day.  In the Church today, we still set apart people to positions of service.

Another term that always makes me want more info is when Emma Smith is called "an elect lady."  I think I've always been taught that it meant that she was righteous and predestined to fulfill the position.  Now that's not explained in the book, but I believe it's in one of the Mormon Channel podcasts on Emma that it explains that when Emma was called to the position, the group was asked to raise hands to support her, as in "elected" -- this type of "sustaining" action is still done today.  Maybe this podcast? on Emma or this one on the Organization of the RS.

Additionally, in regards to organizing the RS, I guess I have always felt the RS and Priesthood/Men were organized differently -- yet they're supposed to be so much the same.  I started thinking about how they could be organized differently and, therefore, feel more similar to me.  Other than actually "holding" the priesthood, I'd guess the biggest difference is that the boys when they're 12 and receive the Aaronic Priesthood start their associations with other men in the ward (priesthood opening exercises).  For the girls, this doesn't really happen until they are are 18 and actually become members of RS.  I think more and more now, though, young women (12+) are being included on occasion with the 18+ group, but maybe if the younger women were included when they also turned 12, like the boys, they'd feel more involved/important?  I do wonder why there isn't an opening exercises for all the females 12 and up just like there is for the males.  I'm sure there's a reason, I just don't know what it is.

On page 14, it mentions Emma's responsibility to compile hymns for the Church.  It doesn't mention, though, how much W.W. Phelps also had to do with it, which I didn't know until I listened to this podcast from the Mormon Channel.

One thing that confused me a little bit in looking at the wording from back then is where Joseph Smith turns "the key" to the Relief Society.  I'm guessing this means the "key" (14) to govern the RS?  From my understanding now, keys are tied to the priesthood, yet because the women don't hold the priesthood, I wouldn't think they really held the "key"?  Maybe it just means they were authorized to organize.

I was fascinated when I learned that not all women in the early days of the Church were included in the RS -- they had to "petition to belong, and they were accepted based on their goodness and virtue" (15).  I found this interesting because, if I remember correctly, too, not all men were priesthood holders either back then.  Now days, all women over 18 are included in the RS and all men/boys over 12, in good, active standing, receive an order/level of the priesthood.

I was surprised that there was no mention that to be a member of the RS, women had to pay dues (even up until the last century if I remember correctly).  To me, when I learned that detail at another point in my life, it made RS that much more significant.  I thought, if I had to PAY to belong to RS, how would that change my perspective of it?  Would I be more involved in it?  Would I take it more seriously?  Would I show up to my RS activities more often?  Would I try to bond with the other sisters more?   Because I don't pay dues, I think in the past I'd really taken RS for granted.  So, maybe in the book, the editors felt it was an insignificant fact, but to me, paying to belong to something is a big deal because it shows one's dedication to it.  The more we sacrifice for something, the more important it is to us.  (However, I can see the desire of Church leaders for inclusion of ALL women in the Church, so I can see some good benefits in opening membership up to all...)

I liked where Joseph Smith said, "You are now placed in a situation where you can act according to those sympathies which God has planted in your bosoms" (16).  Because of the organization of the RS, the women were able to act in an organized manner beyond their typical household roles.  If any of them had desires to serve outside the home, this was a great way they could be involved.  However, the book also mentions the women "never lost sight of their responsibilities toward their own families and homes" (18).  Well I'd sure hope not!  If they'd lost focus of that, they wouldn't have survived!

I also liked learning that at RS meetings, women were taught by Joseph Smith "to seek their own salvation. . . all must do it for themselves. . . none can do it for another" (17).  In one of the Joseph Smith Papers podcasts (sorry, can't remember which one), I learned that in that day, women of other faiths were taught that their salvation was tied to their husband's.  So if you had a lousy husband, I guess that meant you couldn't go to heaven.  How terrible.  This did bring up a question, though.  In V.H. Cassler's essay on polygamy, she points out that it was common for a woman to be sealed to a Church General Authority (and her husband to be sealed into that union as a child) to guarantee her salvation.  Obviously there was some confusion there because she didn't need to be sealed to a GA, she just needed to be sealed.  Now days we are obviously sealed in the temple to our husbands, and we, as individuals prove our own worthiness independent of the actions of our spouse.

I really liked, "Let this society teach how to act towards husbands, to treat them with mildness and affection.  When a man is borne down with trouble -- when he is perplexed, if he can meet with mildness, it will calm down his soul and sooth his feelings. . . . When you go home never give a cross word, but let kindness, charity and love, crown your works" (19)  Now I know some women will be offended by this and I admit I thought, now why do I have to be so nice? but the quote shows me that women back then weren't much different than we are today.  They needed to bite their tongues just as much as we do.  And, just to make it fair, men were taught to "love, cherish, and nourish his wife" and "regard her feelings with tenderness."  So, it wasn't only the women who were asked to be nice.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Reason for the Season

My friend, Michelle, shared this beautiful song/video by Shawna Edwards entitled, "Do You have Room." I hope you enjoy it.

I shouldn't even open this can of worms, but it's something I've been thinking about. I decided yesterday that Christmas, for me, is about two separate things. 1 - the message of Christ in this song, and 2 - Santa and presents and excitement. The older I get, the less I see them intertwined. I've always been one to try and focus on the Savior and mix in the Santa and pagan stuff, but really, when it comes down to Christmas day, who is it really about? Um, Santa and how much stuff I got.

If I were really die-hard about changing tradition, though, I'd probably get rid of the tree and the stockings and whatnot, but I like them. I like the presents. I like getting them. I like giving them. I like the parties. I sort of like the decorations -- just not putting them up. I like the generosity that comes out in people this time of the year. There's a lot of good that happens. There's a Family Home Evening Lesson that we even did last Monday about what decorations can symbolize, yet part of me feels that those definitions are kind of pushing it to make the pagan fit with the Christian (you also see this in a lot of the books and stories out there).  I have to admit, that if you aren't going to believe in Christ and celebrate his birth, the next best thing is probably exemplifying the goodness of St. Nick to those around you.  I guess I see it as a matter of good, better, best.  I'd say it's obviously nice to be a good person, it's better to be kind and giving toward people in the name of Santa Claus, but it's best to follow Jesus Christ and exemplify his attributes towards others.

I guess if I were to redefine Christmas, I suppose I'd keep the Santa stuff in December and move the religious part of it to Spring/Easter, rather than trying to mix it together.  But I think if I did that, the whole December Christmas stuff would kind of go the way of Valentine's Day or St. Patrick's Day and not a lot would happen -- I guess I'm not so big with traditions and holidays.  Or, I suppose I could do the Savior stuff on Christmas Eve and the Santa stuff Christmas Day, but that seems backwards to me -- shouldn't it be the Savior stuff ON Christmas?  Oh, how could you not do presents on Christmas?  Wouldn't that be kind of a let down? I guess you could justify it by the wise men brought presents to Christ and Christ is a gift to all of us. . .

Anyway, I do love Christmas.  I love the Savior and my testimony of Him.  I'm grateful for a restored Church of Jesus Christ on this earth. I'm grateful for all the other Christians and other people out there who try and make this world a better place.

Enjoy the season!

P.S.  12/6/11:  Here are a couple advent ideas that I've wanted to look more into.  1 - a 25-days Christmas book from Hands full and loving it and scriptures/ideas from LDS Women of God.  And one more from Mormon Women.