Relief Society Lesson 21: Proclaiming the Gospel to the World

What does it mean to “proclaim the gospel to the world?” Since I am only one person, I don’t know how to proclaim something to the whole world. But sharing the gospel with people I know sounds like something I can do. I would start this lesson with that simple adjustment in focus, bringing the scope down to the personal.

Here are four main points you may wish to discuss (condensed from five in the manual).

1. Gratitude for truths we’ve learned in the gospel, and opportunities to share what’s most meaningful to us

Lessons about sharing the gospel sometimes focus so much on ways to get people excited about talking about the Church, that they bypass the “why.” Invite the class to first think about the good things, the joy, that spiritual truths have brought to their lives.

• Ask the class: What gospel principles mean a lot to you right now, as in today, or in the past week?
• Invite them to silently answer this question: Is there anyone you might like to share that with, as a way of connecting with someone? Perhaps a sister, a friend, a parent, or your journal?
• Ask the class: What gospel principles have meant the most to you in the past year? Have you had conversations about that with people you know?

2. Sharing the gospel as guided by the Spirit

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind,” (2 Timothy 1:7). Sometimes discussions on sharing the gospel focus on overcoming our fears about doing so. I think when we’re fearful, it could be that we’re aiming to plow through a prescribed way of doing “missionary work” instead of letting the spirit guide us. The term “missionary tool” feels forced and unnatural, but a conversation with a loved one about our dearly held beliefs doesn’t.

• Ask the class: In thinking about your friends, neighbors, or family members, are you aware of their needs and challenges? Is there a conversation or an act of kindness that could take place in the coming week?
• What do the women you visit teach need right now?
• Are you caring for yourself so that you can have room in your mind and heart, and the energy reserves to act and speak when the Spirit prompts you to?

3. Full time missionaries

“How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10:15)

• If you served a mission, what kinds of support did you most need as a missionary?
• How can we support members of the ward who are currently serving missions? And how can we support full-time missionaries in our ward?

4. The gospel has power to bring peace

“Peace will come through righteousness, through justice, through the mercy of God, through the power which he will grant unto us by which our hearts will be touched and we will have love for one another.” -Joseph Fielding Smith

Isaiah called Jesus the Prince of Peace. At Christmas we say to one another, “let there be peace on earth.” I think it’s worth reflecting on what peace means. Is it lack of conflict between individuals, or groups, or nations? Is it spiritual connectedness with God? Or assurance that we’re beloved of God? To me the core of the gospel, the reason it’s worth sharing, is that hopeful doctrine that through Jesus wrongs are righted, wounds are healed, failings are granted mercy, and suffering is replaced with peace. It’s redemption. And love.

• Have you felt the peace of Jesus recently?
• How can we love our neighbor on a daily basis?

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Sacred Music: She Is Wisdom

When I heard earlier this year that the Heavenly Mother art contest was not receiving as many submissions as it had hoped, I decided to try my hand at writing lyrics for a hymn.  Although I’m not very musical and have never written a lyrics or poetry before, I decided it would be a nice diversion on Sundays. In fact, my church attendance was often clouded by my thoughts of what troubled me about church attendance and doctrine, so the act of focusing on my love and understanding of God the Mother created a positive energy for my Sabbath.

Indeed, the act of pondering a Mother in Heaven and her divine attributes was wonderful worship.  My soul felt soothed and healed in ways I hadn’t felt in years.  As I moved through the song, patterning it after familiar hymn couplets, I found myself trying to merge both the divine feminine and Mormon sides of my spirit. While my family sat at church, I sat at home in front of my mother’s piano, the one I had played during my childhood.  I felt the love of both my mothers as I accessed both a natural and heavenly sense of creation. I struggled to represent my desire to know God the Mother, my pain and discouragement over her absence and hope that her existence is real.   In the midst of this creation, I felt love and joy.

And while my poem was not recognized by the Heavenly Mother contest, I found that this did not bother me at all.  The act of thinking, praying, and creating was more than enough reward for me.

My dear friend Christine, helped me write some music for the verse, but we have not yet finalized the tune, so in the meantime, I put the words to a hymn. I share it here only as an illustration of my point that the journey can be more valuable than the destination.

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You Never Know

This video has made the rounds on facebook this week.  I tend to avoid videos, especially ones made by the church, about motherhood.  Mostly I avoid them because they are emotionally manipulative.  They show only the perfect moments of life, making it look like the ideal is a perfectly clean home, perfect children, and a perfect mom.  I have long since given up hope on attaining that perfect life, so I don’t like my emotions being manipulated to believe that that is true motherhood.  Against my better judgment, I clicked on this video.  Why did I click on it?  Maybe it was out of curiosity.  Maybe it was because I am desperately searching for a positive message right now for me as a stay at home mom.  Maybe it was because I wanted to see a message based in reality, one that would empower me as a mom.

I was surprised to find that this video started off in a less than perfectly clean home, with a mom who was not out of bed when her kids were up.  The video came closer than any I’ve seen lately, to the reality of my life as a SAHM.  My emotions were pulled in to the story because this lady was me, or at least the me I am trying to overcome.  But the life is mine.  What I saw before my eyes was my own morning.  Scrolling through facebook while she’s dreading the day ahead, hearing her two oldest fighting first thing in the morning, placing food in front of a child who doesn’t want to eat it…  Finally! I thought, A real portrayal of what it is like to be a Mormon SAHM.

As the video continued, I mourned with this Mormon mother.  I know her.  I know that she has been programmed like a robot, to only say, “yes, yes, yes.”  She is hard-wired to sacrifice, sacrifice, and sacrifice some more, for her children, her neighbors, her sister, anyone whose day might be made brighter by her selfless acts of service.  She gives and gives, without replenishing the well from which others take.  I recognize her sighs, the vacant lifeless features of her face as she gives her life and passion away, the disappointment that quickly fades as she resolves to be what everyone else needs her to be.

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Neylan McBaine Answers Exponent Bloggers’ Questions About Her Book

Neylan McBaine, author of Women at Church: Magnifying LDS Women’s Local Impact, graciously agreed to answer some of our questions about her book. 

1.) Do you think that there is a place for more radical movements (like, but not limited to, Ordain Women) in effecting change in the church? Do you see a way for radicals and reformers to work together?

If we look at social activism as the model for moving forward, then yes, radial movements have always been part of a successful equation for change. And I think Ordain Women has been effective in drawing mainstream attention to a subject many people previously didn’t want to or didn’t know how to discuss. The essential questions the group raised, the difficult and sometimes uncomfortable wrestling it prompted, brought women’s experiences in the Church to the forefront of mainstream conversation.

My concern is that overlaying social activism playbooks onto Church administration may not have the same effect we expect it to have in our external situations; in fact, we saw this summer that it doesn’t. The fact that the Church functions outside of known worldly structures is both the secret to its longevity, strength and divinity and also the thing that some struggle to understand. It is not a democratic government or a corporation against which workers can strike. I join many, I know, in hoping that in the future there can be more dialogue and compassionate understanding of where “radical” groups are coming from, but I also believe that social activism as we know it in the world will not have the same effect in the Church.

2) If every ward and stake in the church adopted the changes you suggest in your book, things would certainly be better for everyone.  But the administrative authority, financial authority, and ecclesiastical authority would still be almost exclusively in the hands of male priesthood leaders.  Do you see that as a problem?  If so, what are your thoughts on possible ways forward?

If the Church administration were really functioning at fully cooperative capacity — meaning that essential mindset changes were made to include, recognize, lead with and trust women — I think male administered church governance would look very different than it does today.

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International Series: Open Thread

“…And the Lord called His people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.”  Moses 7:18

As our current International Series comes to a close, we have had our hearts, minds and eyes opened to the wide spectrum of experience from our sisters and brothers across the world.  Like many of you, I read with great curiosity to learn of their struggles and successes, and how they find joy in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. At the end of nearly every post, I found myself asking, “How can I better relate to this person’s experience? What can I do? How could I help?”

Several of our guest posters and commenters touched on the following themes: the way American members and missionaries behave in foreign countries, perspectives of relative privilege, language barriers, proximity from other members, church buildings and temples, relating to the cultural history of the community as it colors their experiences with the church, emotional, physical and linguistic isolation, American/Utah Mormon superiority complex, labeling/judging others in general, missionary efforts, humanitarian efforts and variety vs. uniformity.

We now open this thread to you to share any thoughts or ideas you have, or to suggest tangible solutions to issues raised. You might also respond to this question: “How can we build a worldwide Zion and what can I do?”

“… Dear Lord, prepare my heart to stand with thee on Zion’s mount, and nevermore to part.” Hymns 41

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International Series: Seeking Out and Relieving the Distressed

We are thrilled to feature new voices and new perspectives, many from people who are posting for the first time in English. Their voices have been missing from the conversation about gender and Mormonism, and their posts highlight the diverse experiences of LDS women throughout the global church.

Today’s post comes from Dave Dixon. Dave is the co-founder of No Poor Among Them, a podcast/blog devoted to exploring ways in which we as Latter-day Saints can eliminate poverty in the Church and in the world. He is also a board member for the Liahona Children’s Foundation, the happy husband of Jana, and happy father of two sons.

As the sun shines brightly over the city of Lugazi, Uganda, around 21 women are busily making hand-crafted jewelry for Musana Jewelry. All told, these artisans support themselves and 108 children. Melissa Sevy, Rebecca Burgon, and Kristen Wade are pleased with the progress the organization has made. Musana (which means “sunlight” in the local language of Luganda) was formed by these after seeing the difficulties of these women on a humanitarian trip to the area in 2009. The organization has since blossomed, and has helped many local women to flourish. I spoke with two of them: Tina and Harriet. The business is run locally by Tina, a local LDS primary president. Harriet, a hard-working artisan told me that working for Musana has enabled her to better provide for her children and allows her to receive proper medical care for issues resulting from HIV. Many of the local artisans are single mothers who have had a very difficult time in their lives. Musana not only provides employment for these women, but also trains them with classes in literacy, English, finance, business, and health. These women have ambitions to start their own businesses when they feel they are on solid enough footing, thus allowing other women to enter Musana’s business training program. Melissa told me in an interview that focusing on women is the key to economic development. When you pay a woman or a girl, they reinvest 90 percent of their income in their families, compared to 30-40 percent for men. Musana does a great job of connecting women all around the world. My wife Jana hosted a Musana market in her home, in which friends and neighbors bought some of the hand-crafted jewelry, watched a specialized thank-you video from the artisans of Musana, listened to Ugandan music, and ate some awesome Ugandan food (the peanut butter stew was really good).

(Right to left) Melissa Sevy, Harriet Ochieng, and Tina Kyambadde of Musana Jewelry

(Right to left) Melissa Sevy, Harriet Ochieng, and Tina Kyambadde of Musana Jewelry

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