The Inaugural LDS Women’s Meeting–Part 2

Like Mraynes, I was eager to experience the first LDS Women’s meeting, and was curious to see how the wider audience would be addressed. I watched it in a stake where I used to live, and was surrounded by women and girls I admire. Several of those women and girls took turns holding my little babe, which allowed me to listen attentively, and take notes to boot. I will offer my report on the second portion of the evening.

My first note is small, and personal. It involved one moment right after I walked in the chapel that gave me pause. The Stake President was present, and said the single word, “Welcome.” I thought briefly that perhaps it should be I, welcoming him to the Women’s Meeting, rather than the other way around. My second note is also small, and personal. It involved the delight I felt at seeing all of the purple in the choir, and thinking that many of my friends and co-bloggers were in good company. Now to the presentations:

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Relief Society Lesson 7: Joseph and Hyrum Smith, Witnesses for Christ

Joseph and Hyrum 2I still remember on my mission, one particular day when one particular investigator told my companion and me that he admired many things about our church, and had many LDS friends whose families and lives he respected, but that there was one thing he could not get over: we worshipped Joseph Smith. We tried to explain the distinction, that we worship God and Jesus Christ, but are grateful for Joseph Smith because he helped us know Them more. We also brought in ancient prophets who helped us do the same.

And then my companion said a prayer. She began it, “Dear Heavenly Father,” and closed it, “In the name of Joseph Smith. Amen.” I was mortified, and thought this guy would never believe the story we just told, or that 99.99999999999% of Mormon prayers end, “In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.” My companion told me later that she was nervous. I told her that it was fine. And it was, mostly, but the issue that the man raised is an important one, because it is a real concern for many people.

I thought of it again when I first read the 7th chapter in the Joseph Fielding Smith manual: “Joseph and Hyrum Smith, Witnesses for Christ.” And I thought of some questions. Let us keep them in mind as we consider this lesson.

  • Why do we sometimes focus so much on Joseph Smith?
  • What can we learn from his life, that can help us in our own?
  • What can we learn from Hyrum’s life? (He is included in this lesson too.)
  • What can we learn from their relationship.
  • What can we learn from their willingness to be martyrs for Christ’s sake?
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Book Review: Mormon Women Have Their Say

Mormon WomenIt took me a long time to read this book, 1) because I actually read it one and a half times, and 2) because I read it almost entirely out loud. The first “half time” came on a long, long road trip across the United States, and was enough for me to know that I wanted every member to read it. The reason was both simple and personal: reading Mormon women’s experiences in their words facilitated the most amiable discussion on Mormon feminism that my traveling companion and I had ever had. He heard the women’s pain and joy, and he could not ignore them. Mormon Women Have Their Say birthed compassion and understanding.

The “whole time” came after my babe was born. I started again, and read a few pages at time, while I fed her. We finished just a few days ago, and it felt like a marvelous accomplishment.

The book begins with a preface from a woman at my graduate school that I do not know well, and then a longer introduction by Claudia Bushman, about the project the book stems from, and its history and impetus. One of the things she talks about is how we have few records on Mormon women, and fewer records on Mormon women that weren’t named Emma Smith, Eliza R. Snow, Emmeline B. Wells, or so forth, and fewer records still on Mormon women in the 21st century. The Claremont Oral History Project begins to correct all three.

It offers hundreds of records on regular Mormon women. In Claudia’s words:

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Notes From NYC: Claudia Bushman On Recording Stories

CLBMy Relief Society does something remarkable, that makes me rejoice about what Relief Society can be. We call it our Women of Faith Lecture Series. Every month or so, a different sister tells us her story of faith–which is just as often her story of doubt, and trials, and questions–and then the floor is opened for a very rich and intimate Q&A. I have experienced nothing else like it in Mormonism.

The first one I attended was by “East River Lady.” She spoke about some of the things she wrote about here. It was powerful. The second I attended was my own. I spoke about researching Heavenly Mother full-time, and some of the joy and sorrow that came. The third I attended was recently: it was by beloved Claudia Bushman. She shared her story of collecting stories, and of keeping her own.

One of the very first things that Claudia said is that while she fought keeping records for half of her life, she now thinks that it is the very most important thing we can do. She went on to explain that “if dates and names for your family are in the archives, you can access them, but there are other things that you know, that if not recorded will be lost forever.” I forget the specific examples she used here, but essentially they were experiences; they were stories.

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Young Women Lesson: What Happened In My Premortal Life?

All Young Women lessons in February are on the Plan of Salvation. Here I offer a few thoughts on What happened in my premortal life? While this lesson focuses on the very beginning of the Plan’s narrative, I think that it could be helpful to start class discussion with a brief overview, 1) to learn where the girl’s are at in their knowledge and comprehension, and 2) to keep in mind how all of the parts fit together. I would also testify, very early on, that the Plan of Salvation is meaningful, and that the questions it addresses are not made up missionary questions, but real questions, that many real people have. Philosophers refer to them as existential questions, because they are about life and existence. They are questions like

  • Where did I come from?
  • Why am I here?
  • Where am I going?
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