Relief Society Lesson 19: In the World But Not of the World

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City Scape by Ham, Myung SuThis lesson guide is based on the Joseph Fielding Smith manual’s lesson, Chapter 19. Fortunately, this topic is also well-covered in an exceptional lesson guide we recently did for Young Women’s. Definitely check it out! (As per usual, my questions to the class are italicized.)

This quote opens the lesson, “While we are in the world, we are not of the world. We are expected to overcome the world and to live as becometh saints.”

Ask the sisters: What does this quote mean to you?
Can we live apart from the world and avoid being condescending towards those who don’t believe as we do or choose the same path that we do?

I worry about the second question quite a bit. As a Mormon who holds political ideologies different from many of the members in my various wards, I have felt judged for voting Democrat…that perhaps, I don’t quite understand the gospel or the Church because I see issues differently.

Rachel Held Evans says in better in her book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood (have you read it? It’s fantastic!), “We tend to take whatever’s worked in our particular set of circumstances (big family, small family, AP, Ezzo, home school, public school) and project that upon everyone else in the world as the ideal.”

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Meet the Mormons

Apparently the church is releasing a new film on October 10th entitled “Meet the Mormons.”  Per the news release, the “film is an opportunity for people to meet — in a very personal way — members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”  It documents the lives of six different members of the church in different countries, ranging from a (female!) kickboxing champion in Costa Rica, to the head coach of the Naval Academy football team, to a WWII veteran who participated in the Berlin airlift in the 1940′s.

You can watch the trailer below:

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From the Balcony

Women's Equality Day August 26, 2014 Tweet and post with the hashtag #equalinfaith to support gender justice in religion.June 12, 1840

After crossing the ocean to attend the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott and all other women were not permitted to participate. Instead, they were offered seats in the balcony behind a curtain. They could listen to the proceedings from where they sat, silenced and hidden from the men who were welcomed to the meeting, but their exclusion ignited a “burning indignation” in young Stanton.  Later that day, Mott and Stanton “agreed to hold a woman’s rights convention on their return to America. …Thus a missionary work for the emancipation of woman…was then and there inaugurated.” Reference A, Reference B

Today, modern women in many societies enjoy the fruits of the labors of Stanton, Mott and others, who acted on their belief that women should be more than silent, hidden spectators when men convene about subjects of equal concern to men and women.

And yet…

April 5, 2014

“Since these subjects are of equal concern to men and to women,

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Representing Christ

The Good Shepherd by Waiting for the World

The Good Shepherd
by Waiting for the World

 

 

 

By Jenny

I looked out the window of the bus at the dreary grey sky, as we winded down the long road from Hitler’s Tea House on the top of the mountain.  It had been another dismal workday and I was ready to crash.  I was nineteen and living alone in a mountain village in Southern Bavaria, doing an internship that I had gotten through BYU.  Up until the point that I boarded the airplane for this secluded place, I had barely left my own mountains of Utah.  I was sheltered to say the least.  Now I was the lone Mormon kid, an hour away from the nearest LDS church in Salzburg.  In my immature and naïve mind, I was also surrounded by heathens who might be contagious.  I would come to love the people I was surrounded by and lose most of my self- righteous attitude toward them, but at this point I was spending too much energy trying to keep myself unstained from the sins of the world.  That left me with little capacity for love.

This day had been a particularly hard one.  When I finally arrived at my apartment, depression seized me and I threw myself on the bed and pulled the covers over my head.  I was ready to give up.  I lay there crying and praying.  In my loneliness that summer, God had become my  one constant companion.  I knew that if I got up and ran in the hills behind my apartment I  would feel better, but I couldn’t pull myself out of my bed.  I lay there in misery until I saw  something curious on my back door.  I got out of bed to see what it was and found that it was a note from the Sister Missionaries.

Liebe Jenny, We had a crazy desire to visit you today—unfortunately the budget didn’t take us to the top of the mountain. Na, ja—we picked the second best thing and hiked up here to your house.  Above all, we have been thinking about you—it’s tough being the only Mormon kid in a foreign country but buck up trooper—we know your example will have many lasting effects—the Lord even gives us pep talks when we need them, here’s Sister Nuttall and I’s favorite. D&C 6:34-37. The Lord knows each one of us very personally—even those of us wandering around Salzburg or sitting atop a mountain in Germany!  The Lord is also most pleased in how strong you are growing in this experience—spiritual muscles!  We are sorry that we didn’t plan this adventure to Berchtesgaden well enough—don’t worry, we will get together another time. Wir haben Sie Lieb Schwester Jensen and Schwester Nuttalls

 

That note was everything to me at that moment, and it got me out of bed.  I put on my running shoes and ran through the lush forested hills.  I wondered why the missionaries would take so much time and energy to travel an hour by train and then hike all the way up to my apartment just to leave me a note.  They could have been searching for converts, but they spent the greater part of their day just to make my day better.  That day was not a successful one for them by any outward appearance.  They didn’t find a golden contact, they didn’t convert anyone to the gospel, they didn’t even get to see the one person they spent their day travelling to see.  As a missionary it could have been considered a wasted day.  But their efforts meant everything to me, one lonely nineteen-year-old girl far from the comfort of her tribe.  That day, my missionaries chose to represent Christ.

That was the loneliest time of my life because I was in an unfamiliar culture with people who weren’t like me.  I have felt a similar loneliness over the last few years.  This time I am not alone in a foreign country where I struggle to use the language to express myself.  I am not different from everyone around me because I grew up with different beliefs and values than they did.  This time I am in the culture of my birth.  I should fit in.  But after a life-changing faith transition and feminist awakening, I am different.  I believe differently.  I speak differently and I do struggle to find a common language with which I can fully express myself.  Now I am the heathen whom others are struggling to be around for fear that what I have is contagious.  In the very culture of my birth I don’t fit in.  I am different.

So naturally I am thinking about those missionaries so many years ago and the effort they made to help me feel like I was okay in a culture that I didn’t belong to.  And I am thinking about the ideal we set in the church for every member to be a missionary.  What does that mean?  The typical Sunday School answers are to pray for missionary experiences, give Book of Mormons away, and talk to our friends and neighbors about the church.  But my wise sister missionaries knew that it wasn’t just about getting converts.  What good does it do us to convert people to our church if our church is not a place for many people with differing beliefs and levels of orthodoxy to feel welcome.  If our church is not a church of love and inclusion, then converts will profit us nothing.

We worry about our image, we worry about our numbers, we worry about our rules.  We don’t want to get too close because what that person has looks like apostasy.  We bear our testimonies in an attempt to convert them back to our way of thinking and believing.  We live in a cold and delusional world of Sunday school answers.  It’s time to shed our rules, shed our agendas, and shed the self righteousness that makes us believe that we have all the right answers for everyone.   If we truly want to be representatives of Christ in our member missionary work, then it’s time for us to climb the mountains to find the one.  To find the one who is lonely and feels out of place.  To find the one who is giving up on the church because the church has given up on her.  To find the one who needs to know that she is loved no matter what she believes or how she lives her life.  We can spend our energy worrying about apostasy and trying to keep ourselves unstained from the sins of the world.  Or we can give ourselves fully to loving the way Christ did.

 

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Some Feminist-friendly Finds on Netflix

Commander in Chief

Commander in ChiefCan you envision the day when the United States of America finally has a female president? If you can’t, Commander in Chief should help. Geena Davis won a Golden Globe for Best Actress for her role as a female president in this series, which unfortunately aired for only one season. Her character faces domestic and international crises that would be expected of any world leader, as well as some uniquely female opportunities to counter sexism.

Bomb Girls

Bomb GirlsWe often talk about our foremothers who paved the way for women in the workforce by working in factories during World War II, personified by the iconic Rosie the Riveter. Yet, it never even occurred to me to ask, “What the heck does a riveter do?” My unasked question is answered by Bomb Girls, a fictional series set in a Canadian World War II era bomb factory “manned” mostly by women.

Secrets of Mary Magdalene

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Women Exit Quietly: A Review of Neylan McBaine’s Women at Church

women at church cover (2)Guest Post by Emily January Petersen

Women are most likely to leave an organization after experiencing a psychological contract barrier, which is a belief “employees have about the entitlements they will receive and that they perceive were promised to them by their employers…. Violations of psychological contracts occur when the perceived implicit and explicit promises of employers are not fulfilled or are broken” (Hamel, 2009, p. 235).  When these violations happen, instead of putting up a fight, standing up for one’s self, or speaking out, women quietly leave.  In her research, Hamel found that some 90% of those interviewed left quietly.

Is this what is happening in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?  Elder Marlin K. Jensen, former Church historian, “would not provide any figures on the rate of defections, but he told Reuters that attrition has accelerated in the last five or ten years, reflecting greater secularization of society” (Henderson & Cooke, 2012, para. 6).  While numbers aren’t available, I’ve heard talk of more women than men leaving the church.  I know in my own family and circle of friends, there are many women who have left, primarily because of cultural misogyny and bigotry.  Many of these women have strong beliefs about equality (for women and the LGBT community).  They part with the Church because of their disgust over the treatment of these groups, both officially and in cultural settings. 

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Neckties: Priesthood Attire or Lucifer’s Lust Pointer?

mens-fashion-ties-002 Neckties are arrows that point to the male genitalia. Why are they considered “priesthood attire” in the LDS community? In some congregations otherwise worthy men are not allowed to participate in priesthood ordinances unless wearing a white shirt and necktie. The male missionary uniform is a white shirt and conservative necktie, symbols of orthodoxy in the LDS Church. Salt Lake Tribune columnist Robert Kirby recently noted,

Neckties are so important to Mormons that it’s only a matter of time before we start seeing them airbrushed onto young men in church publications.

Oh, the horror! Before such a perilous day dawns, I must sound a warning. Neckties are leading women far from the iron rod of righteousness into the shadowy mists of lust. The influence of the necktie is subtle and pernicious and has infiltrated every level of Church leadership. legends-of-the-summer-justin-timberlake-jay-z-1.492.325.c The white shirt and necktie are ubiquitous symbols for male professional conformity and power, but some Christians contend that a man in a suit is too much temptation for the modern Christian sister.

Justin Timberlake and Jay Z acknowledge the power of the well dressed man in the song Suit and Tie. Brother Timberlake croons in the chorus,

And as long as I got my suit and tie, Ima leave it all on the floor tonight.

You are mistaken in hoping Brother Timberlake took off his suit and tie to put on his pajamas,

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