Relief Society Lesson 13: Priceless Blessings of the House of the Lord

I prepared another lesson on temples several years ago which began with a sentiment that I still find relevant today: We talk a lot in the Church about the blessings of the temple and all the peace, beauty, knowledge, truth, etc. that participating in temple ordinances can bring.  Unfortunately, I think we too often fail to dig deeper into the meaning and our experience with the temple because we have set the temple up to be a tricky thing to talk about. This is a difficult lesson to teach precisely because it may be hard to get deep and meaningful discussion about the temple and our relationship to it.  As a teacher, you must be aware of some class member’s discomfort in talking about something they might consider too sacred to talk about.  You also need to be sensitive to the fact that everybody has a very different and deeply personal relationship to the temple.  Many members of your class will see the temple of a place of peace and comfort. But you might also have sisters who have either not gone through the temple or have experienced very real pain and confusion there.  This is not something to be afraid of or run away from, if anything I would highlight the beauty in our individual journey towards the divine.

In preparing this lesson, strive to avoid the usual rhetoric about the temple and instead focus on each sister’s individual experience. Ask questions that will lead to deep and meaningful conversation on this topic. Also, this is a Relief Society lesson, try to highlight Mormon women’s voices, stories and relationships with the temple.

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“Many stories matter.”

Liz_Heather_Botswana

I recently returned from a trip to Botswana, where I joined a group of scholars (including three other Exponent bloggers!) in collecting oral histories from women of faith from several different faith backgrounds, including Mormonism.  As a group, we were able to talk to dozens of women and hear about their struggles, successes, hopes, fears, and how their faith informs their choices and the lives that they live.  As I talked to these women (and particularly Mormon women), I admit being surprised by their answers, because they didn’t always reflect my biases.  As African women, shouldn’t they resent the church’s priesthood/temple ban that wasn’t lifted until 1978?  As most women I talked to were working women, shouldn’t they resist or resent the church’s culture/teachings about mothers staying home with their children?  Shouldn’t they find great joy in Relief Society as a way to bind women together and promote sisterhood?

Over and over again, I was reminded that my story is not their story, and really, even their story isn’t their story.  The women I interviewed were so completely unique – none of their stories matched up to my expectations, and none of them even matched up to each other.  I kept expecting to find a theme – I wanted to be able to walk out of 5 or 6 interviews with a clear picture of what Batswana Mormon women think and feel.  But what I found is that their faith and their lives are as varied and multifaceted as any other group of Mormon women.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a Nigerian author, speaks about the danger of this “single story” in her TED talk (embedded below).  She says, “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”  When we expect a single story from a person or group of people, we don’t allow for nuance, complexity, or the possibility “to connect as human equals.”

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Aspiring Mormon Women Events

written by Naomi Watkins

Awhile back we featured the origin story of the awesome group Aspiring Mormon Women, a non-profit organization that supports and encourages LDS women’s educational and professional endeavors. This month, AMW will host its first events outside of Utah—in Boston and D.C./Northern Virginia.  (Registration Links and Details below.)

One aspiring Mormon woman shared her experience attending AMW events:

“I have found a sisterhood of motivated, talented women who thoughtfully and passionately pursue personal excellence. I enjoy mingling, networking, and having spirited conversations with my AMW sisters. Over the past few months, I have had the opportunity to attend three Aspiring Mormon Women events. On February 25, at the AMW networking event in Provo, Utah, I enjoyed meeting and reconnecting with many inspiring women living in Utah County. In addition to the formal events arranged by Aspiring Mormon Women, the organization encourages women to organize meet-up groups in their area. I helped arrange a small AMW meetup in Provo on May 1; we had a delicious dinner at Guru’s Cafe and spent the evening strolling around downtown Provo, talking about our families, education, careers, frustrations, and successes. Finally, on June 4, I attended the Aspiring Mormon Women event with Ruth Todd, the VP of Public Affairs for Nu Skin International, and former news anchor and spokesperson for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For me, one highlight of the evening was the group’s discussion about the importance of teaching young women to avoid limiting themselves with narrow notions about what women can or should do, and instead, helping young women pursue goals that match their individual strengths, talents, and interests. I love the fantastic discussions and delightful connections that always take place at AMW events!”

Sound awesome to you, too? Then, please, will you…

  • Share this post with your friends to spread the word
  • Join us at this month’s events if you’re in the Boston or D.C. area (see details below)
  • Connect with AMW online via our blog and Facebook discussion forum

 

Boston | Friday, June 19, 7–9 p.m.

AMW Boston Event

A Panel Discussion + Networking Event

We’ve assembled a panel of women from various careers, life stages, and paths to provide a stimulating, supportive, and enriching conversation about education and career as an LDS woman. Our first event outside of the Wasatch Front, this evening will provide a great opportunity to meet other Aspiring Mormon Women in the Boston area.

Register here.

 

D.C. | Saturday, June 27, 7–9 p.m.

AMW DC Event

A Night Out with Aspiring Mormon Women D.C.

Meet like-minded LDS women pursuing educational and professional goals. Come for an evening of support, encouragement, and networking.

The first hour will be an unstructured mixer. The second hour will include structured networking activities, including speed networking and discussion groups about career planning, nurturing the aspirations of young women, and other related topics.

Register here.

 

 

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Sacred Music Sunday: Healing with Hildegard Von Bingen

Sacred Music Sunday: Healing with Hildegard Von Bingen

Guest Post by Lisi Youngberg

Lisi Youngberg is a piano teacher and vocal performance coach that loves empowering others to express themselves through music. The only human female in a male household, Lisi is raising her boys to be feminist allies. Her cat, Gigi, is naturally a feminist.


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Hildegard von Bingen (b.1098 – d. 1179) was a German writer, composer, philosopher, Christian mystic, Benedictine abbess, visionary, and polymath. She referred to herself as a member of the “weaker sex,” claimed she was unlearned and incapable of biblical exegesis.

Hildegard explained that the inspiration and intelligence behind her writings and music came from visions of the Divine. Presenting herself this way, gave her authority to speak in a time and place where few women were permitted a voice. Early feminists used Hildegard’s reputation as a medicinal writer and healer to argue for a woman’s right to attend medical school.
The intelligence, creativity and spirituality of Hildegard are beautifully captured in her music. As I listen to this recording of O Frondens Virga I feel my own primal soul yearning to transcend my body and connect with the Divine.

O Frondens Virga

O branch coming into leaf,
standing in your nobility
as the dawn breaks forth:
now rejoice and be glad
and deign to set us frail ones
free from evil habits
and stretch forth your hand
to lift us up.

I chose the Chanticleer recording because I enjoy watching a group of robust-looking men expressing themselves with a voice that is so deeply feminine. The masculine and feminine are at one in this ethereal expression of Hildegard’s divine visions.
Hildegard’s music is ideal for meditation. This longer group of recordings could be the setting for your next quiet time.

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Heavenly Mother’s Day: Dreaming of the Divine Feminine

Putneypics from Flickr

Putneypics from Flickr

Guest Post by Maxine Hanks

My encounter with the divine feminine began in dreams, when I was a teen; yet, a sense of Her was there before, in the love of my mother and the lyrics of my favorite Primary song:  “our lilac tree” and “butterfly wings” and “the magical sound of things,” resonated Her presence.My first dream of Her came in 1972; a female figure led me to our Chapel, where a crystal bowl of pristine water waited on the sacrament table, for me to partake. Before I could drink, two sisters in the ward began adding ingredients to the water to make a cake. I awoke dismayed. She appeared in another dream or two, but I didn’t know Her name.

In 1976, I unconsciously engaged Her at college, by writing about female concerns on campus, and co-chairing the women’s conference, themed “Woman Clothed With The Sun.” I was doing female theology without knowing it.

I first spoke of Her in 1982 at the Seventh East Press. I wanted to publish the poem, “The Motherless House,” but I had to wait 10 years. She was barely surfacing then, in work by Carol Lynn Pearson (1970s), Linda Wilcox (1980), the Exponent II (1980s), and private discussions by Martha Pierce and Julie Nichols.

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Mormon Women Write

Book Cover

Approximately three months ago, I packed my bags and my baby and hopped on a plane to California to say a few words about the book, Mormon Feminism: Essential Writingsand what coediting it with Joanna Brooks and Hannah Wheelwright has meant to me. Many of my words are about writing, and legacies, and memorials. Others are about baby nap-times, and gratitude, and resolution. I quote authors, philosophers, and women I love, and I get teary. It is hard not to be moved by the intertwined, brave, lived history of Mormon feminism.

Thanks to the magic of technology (and the good folks at my Claremont Graduate University), you can watch my remarks here. If you listen especially carefully, you may even hear my babe pronounce, “Mama.” (A shoutout to my kind classmate and colleague who cared for her in the back.)

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