Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Beginning of Better Days - Virginia H. Pearce section

For Mother's Day, my husband knew I wanted a copy of The Beginning of Better Days by Sheri Dew and Virginia Pearce, so he picked one up for me.  I didn't really know what it was about, other than I knew it was historical in nature, about women, and good.  I'd also heard it rumored by the Bloggernacle whiners that it was Dew & Pearce's attempt to create a better version, their own version with more guts, of Daughters in My Kingdom.

Let me just start off by saying, it is not an attempt to show that DIMK was failed in purpose and needed a replacement.  DIMK is a brief history of women in the Church; The Beginning of Better Days is a portion of the original Relief Society Minutes taken by Eliza R. Snow of the teachings of Joseph Smith.  It also includes Dew's and Pearce's insights on the teachings, and in fact, directly addresses many of the concerns of modern Mormon feminists.

I actually considered entitling this post, Who are the Real Mormon Feminists?, but didn't want to cause an uproar, nor did I want to identify Dew and Pearce with the word feminism if they don't want to be.  But, this book is incredible.  Dew and Pearce don't shy away from the tough questions.  They question faithfully.  I surely planned to do a post about the book once I was done, but I've had so many thoughts about it as I've read, I want to do some smaller posts as I go.

So, today's post is only on Virginia Pearce's section, "Angels and Epiphanies."

On page 7, I love how she points out that we have to bring in historical context as we study the teachings of Joseph Smith.  It's just as when we study other scriptures.  We have to separate the principle from the "historical circumstances," then apply that principle to our lives.

On page 9, she reminds us that in 1842 when the sermons were given and the RS was organized, that women "rarely held offices in male-dominated organizations."  She comments that as women in the Church that we "have the opportunity and responsibility to help solve problems and attend to needs."

On page 14, she mentions that Joseph stated that women specifically "'have feelings of charity.'"  I've heard this from him and I've heard similar sentiments from MANY others.  I want to believe there is something special and unique in this statement, and I see that quality in women myself, but so many people say, "well men have that quality, too.  There is nothing in women that makes them more charitable over men."  I guess I want to see some studies showing that Joseph was right.

On page 15, I loved how Pearce reminds us of the historical context of lots of immigrants in Nauvoo , and people needed to be extra charitable as they were trying to understand new people and new cultures.  Similarly, on page 16, she points out how Joseph taught the women to "refrain from self-righteousness and gossip" particularly in light of the rumors about plural marriage and the fraudulent practice of "spiritual wifery" of John C. Bennet.  What a confusing time that would be!

On page 23, I liked how Pearce states she won't be offended when someone says men get the priesthood and women get to bear children, "but that explanation doesn't really resonate with me either."  I get it more than I used to after reading Cassler's works, but I'm not fully sold on it, or maybe I still don't completely understand it.  Anyway, I'm glad to know Pearce doesn't totally get that one either.

On page 24, Pearce reminds us that "'The priesthood' isn't the congregation of men who meet together each Sunday," but it is God's power.  On 25 and 26, I loved learning Pearce's journey through trying to understand how and why women in the early restored Church healed people and why we don't do that today.

On page 28, Pearce mentions how in the early days of the Church, worthiness was a prerequisite for membership in the Relief Society.  I knew that, but she shares details that suggest that Relief Society was practically a temple preparation class taught by the Prophet.  When you look at it that way, of course you would need to be worthy to be a member.

On page 30, she concludes that everything she is has to do with the temple and living up to her privileges that are offered there.

Anyway, I loved her essay and absolutely recommend it.  I love that she asks tough questions, yet looks and waits for faithful answers.  When I was done reading her essay, I thought, Wow!  I want to be just like her when I grow up!

6 comments:

Erika Loveland said...

Hi LATG - Thank you for reviewing this book. I had only been vaguely aware of it and wasn't planning to learn more, but it sounds like a thought-provoker. Faithful LDS women are hungry for this type of insight! Thanks again.

kels said...

Thanks for the summary! I'm curious though, because you said the book "directly addresses many of the concerns of modern Mormon feminists," but in your summary I didn't see a direct address of any of the main concerns I've heard or felt as a Mormon feminist. Could you clarify the concerns and "direct address[es]" that you found?

Emily said...

Good question, Kels. I'll just reply real quickly and not take the time to go look up specific quotes, but it surprised me that Sis. Pearce and Sis. Dew BOTH asked at least some of the SAME questions "Mormon Feminists" are asking today. Yet, instead of getting bitter, and angry, and ranting, and assuming the worst about the Church and its leaders which seems to happen so often online, they held true. That's the type of feminist I want to be - if it needs to be called such. When I write about Sis. Dew's section, I'll try and pull out some specifics.

Emily said...

Just to clarify - they don't give complete answers to the questions, but they ASKED them. I think people feel less faithful for asking those types of questions and sometimes others judge wrongfully those who ask, but if Sis P & Sis D can ask, what does that tell us? These aren't just blind followers, but faithful, brilliant women.

kels said...

So, Emily, what I'm getting is that they asked the feminist questions but didn't provide a direct address of them. Is that accurate? I agree that at least asking the questions = a good example, but that is still a far cry from directly addressing the concerns of Mormon feminists. I guess we have to be happy with "one miracle at a time" as E. Holland said... lol.

Emily said...

Kels - I guess it's more like asking stuff like why don't women hold the priesthood. There's not an answer to that - and Dew and Pierce aren't going to make one up, but they've found their own peace with it and haven't gone bashing the church because there's no current/direct answer. Does that help?