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.


Curls said...

To your question why have women been put down in society so many times, I think I have an answer.

Because Satan does ALL he can to disrupt the work of God. Right now he does it by confusing and tempting women, back in the day he did it by convincing everyone they were second class citizens.

I don't think it's men so much as Satan. He uses the sexes against each other to disrupt the formation of families and to impede their success.

I love Paul's counsel that the older women should serve and teach. To me this means that there have ALWAYS been seasons it womens lives. When you've grown your children then you can teach other women.

I finally got MY copy. I'm really loving it so far.

Emily said...

Good thought there about Satan. You're probably right!

Stephanie said...

I've wondered the same thing about why women were put down throughout history, or even more frequently just not acknowledged.

For instance, Doug and I were reading through the old testament, and when you get to one of those dreaded portions that goes through geneology, it always makes me sad that they usually skip the mothers and just give you the "father begat son begat son . . . etc." My husband was trying to understand why it made me sad, and I asked him, how would you feel if in your family scrap book, your mom only journaled about the girls in the family?

I know it's not as simple as that, and that the genealogy stuff has to do with priesthood lineage, but it still makes me feel sad sometimes when I read it.

Do you have any suggestions for a more positive way to interpret those versus?

Emily said...

That's an interesting question about the verses. From what I understand, the sealing is really carried through the woman (right?), so all those records show the priesthood line, but there is no written record of the sealing line. I guess I say carried through the woman because if you look at divorce... say a woman who has been sealed gets divorced, remarries out of the temple, and has another child, that child is still born in the covenant (the sealing of her and her x). If the x-husband gets remarried out of the temple and a child is born, that child is not born in the covenant (no sealing between him and his new wife). It's like the mercy is upon the wife, not the husband. Maybe that's why it's okay for more women to be sealed to the same man? (Because the children born will be in the covenant? Does that even make any sense?)

Well, I think that's right (what I wrote above about the sealing), but I'm not sure where to check. So, it's good reason to keep the records of the mother, especially when the temple is involved & when divorce is involved.

In talking it over with my husband, too, he pointed out that maybe back then, these cultural things (like leaving women out) just didn't even stand out to them. Just like in a couple hundred years people will look at our General Conferences and say, wow! they were so sexist (or whatever), and we hardly see it presently. These cultural things just inadvertently creep in, I guess. A lot to think about.