This is my favorite chapter DIMK, so I’m excited to write up a lesson plan. Before teaching this lesson, I would ask a few women to prepare to talk about their favorite woman in the scriptures, or if they’re amendable, assign them to learn about a woman they may not know much about (I’ve listed a few in the lesson as possible suggestions). I would also ask them to address how those women and their roles fit into the model of Relief Society today.
I’ve put possible discussion questions in italics.
The subtitle of this chapter states that Relief Society is a restoration of an ancient pattern.
What pattern is do you think the manual is referring to here?
The manual reads, “The women in the ancient Church were dignified and noble, needed and valued. They served others, increased in personal holiness, and participated in the great work of saving souls” (pg 7).
Eliza R. Snow once said, “Although the name may be of modern date, the institution is of ancient origin. We were told by our martyred prophet that the same organization existed in the church anciently” (pg 7).
President Snow’s quote is a powerful one. If we believe our prophet, Joseph Smith, “The Church was never perfectly organized until the women were thus organized,” I think we are given some freedom to imagine what women did when they were organized.
What do you think the early organizations of women in the Gospel may have looked like?
I think it’s interesting to look at groups of women in the scriptures as possible examples.
How do these groups come together and what do they look like?
In Exodus 15, we see the Israelites, triumphant after crossing the Red Sea, and we see Miriam and the women of the community come forward.
20 ¶And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances.
21 And Miriam answered them, Sing ye to the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.
I think these women were coming together in gratitude, maybe even performing some type of religious ritual to give thanks.
In Genesis 24, Rebekah leaves her family to marry Isaac and takes only “her damsels.” Were these women more than slaves? A community to help her in a strange country with strange customs?
In a time of danger for the Jews, it is Esther who gathers her women to pray and fast with her.
The New Testament has so many examples of women being disciples of Christ and of women having substantial roles in the early days of the Church. I think the manual does a good job of listing these women and their roles. I would pick your favorite examples (or have members of the class do so) and talk about them using the footnotes in this chapter to read the scriptures that describe these women.
I can’t resist pointing out a few examples that might be worth focusing on.
Martha is one of only two people in all the Gospels, i.e. the scriptures show Christ living, to proclaim his divinity. Peter is the other one. I think this shows courage–remember, that this was blasphemy at the time, punishable by death.
And, of course, Christ first appeared as a resurrected being to Mary.
I would ask the women you invited beforehand to talk about their favorites here.
How do these models influence our ideas of what Relief Society should look like today?
Are we meeting the expectations of Christ and our foremothers?
How can we do better?
Close with the bearing of your testimony about Relief Society and the role of women in the Church.