April Young Women Lesson: Why Was A Restoration Necessary?

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Peter's Key

Introduction

It is easy when talking about the great apostasy and the need for a restoration of all things, to talk in terms of darkness and light. For just one example, N. Eldon Tanner once stated that “this period of the apostasy was known as the Dark Ages because the light of the gospel was withdrawn from the earth.” There is certainly something revealing in such discussions, as the world was started with light (Genesis 1:3), Christ is “the light and life of the world” (3 Ne. 11:10–11), scriptures pair truth with light (D&C 93), and Joseph Smith’s first vocal prayer was punctuated with darkness and light (Joseph Smith-History 1). Still, I believe apostasy and restoration narratives about darkness and light are also concealing. Because of this belief, I would likely start this lesson with an emphasis that there was always light.

There Was Light

In all lands, and in all times, the gift of Christ’s light and spirit has been given to every person. As the Book of Mormon prophet-editor, Mormon, taught:

The Spirit of Christ is given to every man [and woman], that [they] may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God. . . . And now, my brethren [and sisters], seeing that ye know the light by which ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ, see that ye do not judge wrongfully; for with that same judgment which ye judge ye shall also be judged.

This seems wildly important now, but could be even more important for periods of presumed darkness: There was still light. There was still spirit. There was still inspiration. There was still conscience.

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Series: #VisibleWomen: You Can’t Be What You Can’t See: General Women’s Session

General Women's SessionA letter to the General Female Auxiliary Presidencies regarding General Women’s Session
(A similar letter to be set to my Stake Female Auxiliary Presidencies)
To: President Burton, Counselors, and General Relief Society Board
President Oscarson, Counselors, and General Young Women Board
President Wixom, Counselors, and General Primary Board

Greetings and warm wishes to you as we near the Easter Season.

The General Women’s Session is approaching and I praying for you: that preparations are going smoothly and that you feel inspired with words of counsel and love for the women of the church.

Thank you for the testimonies you have shared in the past.  It is obvious that you love the Savior and your testimonies of His grace have touched me.  I appreciate the way you have shared of yourselves in personal and vulnerable ways.

It appears that our church leadership values some same-gendered meeting time.  (ie: Priesthood Session is for men and General Women’s Session is for women – and – one hour each Sunday is set aside for women to meet in Relief Society and for young women to meet together.)  I see advantages to this approach as it allows us to explore our spiritual gifts, discuss concerns that may be unique to women, and most importantly, to be accountable directly to God for our stewardships.

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Spiritual Capital

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It has been my experience that, while we’re all ideally “sisters” and “brothers” in the gospel, certain people within local stakes and wards carry a bit more influence and status than others.  There’s a certain amount of ethos that people carry that makes one’s ideas more heard/accepted, and that gives a person a certain amount of power beyond what is/isn’t bestowed by the institution.  I call this status/influence/ethos “spiritual capital,” a term that I picked up from Patrick Mason (and which he blogged about at Times & Seasons in 2006).  Mason argues that, especially when a person moves into a new ward, there is a certain amount of spiritual capital a person needs to earn before they can start acting in heterodox/different ways without losing their credibility, or else they would essentially withdraw against insufficient spiritual capital funds.

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No Discipline Cases Elder Oaks?

 

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By Jenny

Listening to Elder Oaks and Elder Christofferson yesterday on Trib Talk, I came to a sudden realization.  I think they genuinely don’t understand what is happening to thousands of members of their church.  I guess that’s bound to be the case in a church of millions.  Yet I can’t help but expect more from someone who holds the title of “apostle.”

They were asked a complex set of questions stemming from multiple online sources about whether members of the church would be disciplined for speaking out about opposing beliefs and supporting groups like Affirmation and Ordain Women.  The multiplicity of these questions suggested that this kind of discipline has taken place quite rampantly and many people share a strong fear surrounding this issue.

Elder Christofferson took the first stab at an answer. “It doesn’t really become a problem unless someone is out attacking the church and its leaders.  If that’s a deliberate and a persistent effort and trying to get others to follow, trying to draw others away, trying to pull people, if you will, out of the church or away from its teachings and doctrines.  That’s very different for us than someone who feels one way or another on a political stance or a particular action to support a group, Affirmation or any others that you named.”

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Tattoos and Ghost Stories

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A few months ago a dear friend asked me if I had anything I’d want to contribute for a collection of essays on Primary that would be both real and uplifting. I recalled a funny and sweet memory of one daughter as a Sunbeam and submitted it. Another friend of ours, Bret Wunderli, also submitted a piece. Both were gladly accepted by the compiler. However, the publisher, whose distributor is Desert Book, found our submission troubling and chose to omit them stating: “With Deseret Book distributing this book, we can’t include anything that hints at questioning Church doctrines. Even if it’s subtle.” This disturbed me. Not because my story wouldn’t be included, but because of the climate of fear that is trickling down from above. There is just so much fear. And it is escalating.  Nobody’s mad about the editorial decision, just really sad when something you intended to be bright and insightful is seen as insidious. So brace yourselves for our expurgated stories:

“Tattoos”

My husband’s family is very loving, very supportive, and very colorful. Literally. Seven of the ten kids have at least one tattoo.  And not just initials, or some Chinese symbol that is supposed to say “serenity” but actually says “brussels sprout.” They wear tattoos of bulldogs and Spanish skylines, Maori symbolism, and even the Little Mermaid. My kids adore these aunts and uncles and get fairly defensive when Primary lessons lump body art into the list of “no no’s” or signs of apostasy.

When Georgia was a Sunbeam, her sweet teacher taught a lesson on bodies being temples. When she got to the part about tattoos being Bad, Georgia jumped up from her chair and let loose that her family had lots of tattoos and they were good and pretty and in fact God LOVED tattoos and temples had art so why not bodies—so there! Her kind teacher quietly directed these 3 and 4 year olds to draw pictures for the rest of the lesson.

After church, this teacher found my husband and me and told us the story. She handed me the picture Georgia had drawn. It was a very simple sketch of a man in robes, beard, long hair. Clearly it was Jesus…with a large red tattoo on his forehead of a heart. I looked up to see how this teacher was responding. She had a huge smile on her face and told me she loved Georgia because she was so passionate and truly understood that the Lord loves us all.  I hugged her and was so thankful for a teacher who can teach the party line but did not need to shut down the opposition. 

“Why aren’t there any women in the Godhead?”

By Bret Wunderli

Several years ago, my wife and I taught the oldest teenagers in Sunday School. We had prepared a lesson on something else, but when it became clear that the students were unclear about the Godhead, we scrapped our lesson and taught them about the Godhead. (It should be noted that these young men and women were smart; the fault, we’ve always assumed, was in the teaching they’d received. That is, their teachers had always assumed that they understood the Church’s teachings regarding the Godhead. That was our hypothesis, anyway.)

Some years later, I found myself teaching the oldest Primary children. To say these boys and girls were bright doesn’t do them justice. Remembering our experience in Sunday School, I decided to teach them the clearest, best lesson about the Godhead that I could manage when the topic came up in the manual.

At some point in the lesson, Victoria raised her hand. Her question was priceless. She said, “Why aren’t there any women in the Godhead?” Slight pause. Then, with a puzzled face and a tilted head, she added, “I mean, there’s a ghost in there after all.” That class was not only full of smart kids; they were also kind. They respected each other. So when I tell you that everyone (including the teacher) laughed, it’s important to understand that we were laughing at Victoria’s wit and not at her. Victoria was glowing.

Here’s my answer to her that day: “Victoria, there are many people in the Church who will give you many different answers to that question. Here’s the real deal. We just don’t know why there aren’t any women in the Godhead.”

And there you have it.

 

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Why do we ask?

Sisters, new and old, at the Exponent II Retreat

“Sisters, why do we ask? Why do we ask if we are worthy? Why do we ask if we are expendable? Why do we seek approval? Why do we ask for protection? It has not come. It may never come. I wish it were otherwise. I believe we deserve better. I believe God wants better for us. But the asking orients our movement in particular ways that our own history shows to be of dubious benefit to women’s leadership and autonomy. Let us remember the profound lesson of Linda King Newell’s essay “A Gift Given, A Gift Taken Away”: it was when Mormon women started asking, seeking approval from Church hierarchy to give blessings of healing and before childbirth, that’s when the power was lost. We will not find equality by waiting for approval from headquarters. We must find our leadership within ourselves, in our relationship to God, and in taking responsibility for meeting the needs of our people.

I think of Lowell Bennion’s favorite saying, from the Bhagavad Gita, “To action alone thou has a right, not to its fruits.” The fruits of our feminist labors must not be measured in terms of our ability to move a few powerful men in the Church Office Building, or gather information about them, or work our privileged connections to them, or make them in anyway the object of our focus. They have their work to do; let us do ours. Let us turn instead to our sisters, our mothers, our daughters—worldwide, of every color. What are the issues that connect Mormon women across class and continent? Where are we vulnerable? Where are lives precarious? What are our needs? There is leadership to be claimed in naming and organizing around those needs and identifying and criticizing the exclusionary power structures that have created them. That independence of vision, that resilience in the face of what will surely be continuing cycles of retrenchment, that must be our charge for the next forty years. That is prophetic leadership. With or without approval. With or without ordination.”

Joanna Brooks, Exponent II Retreat, 2014

Why do we ask?  We do it all the time. We ask to hold our babies during their blessings.  We ask to teach a lesson about Christ (instead of the Book of Mormon witnesses) on Easter Sunday. We ask to meet with the Bishop, and then we ask again to implement changes on the ward level to make women more visible.  We ask for food orders.  We ask for funds.  We ask for power, and we ask for authority.

There have been times when we haven’t asked – we’ve just done

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