I haven’t attended Sunday Relief Society meetings regularly for over a decade. The lessons drove me away. I grew tired of the endlessly recycled themes: Restoration, Honoring the Priesthood, Motherhood, Sustaining the leaders, Temple blessings, Sharing the gospel. Messages didn’t change even when the manuals rotated through the lives of all the past Church presidents. I suppose that demonstrated the permanence of the prophets’ teachings. What it didn’t do was provide relevance to my life.
The new manual, Daughters in My Kingdom, is more woman and Relief Society centered than previous manuals—and it features quotes from women leaders and stories of women working in Relief Society. What it does not do, and what I yearn for, is provide examples of women who provide service outside of Church callings—service on their own without being directed by Church leaders.
An I’m a Mormon ad features Cecile Pelous, a French fashion designer who has founded an orphanage to care for 154 Nepalese orphans. Pelous and thirteen other exemplary women are featured in Mormon Women: Portraits & Conversations.
Included in this book are Carol Gray, who organized a relief mission to Bosnia during that war—with supply trucks driven into the battle zone by Relief Society sisters from her Sheffield, England ward. Also featured are: Angela Cummings, business woman in Salt Lake, Maria Consuelo Dimaya, former guerilla medic in the Philippines, Lea Rosser, city manager in Australia, Victoria Fong Kesler, Chinese-American mother of 12, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Harvard professor and Pulitzer Prize winner, Catherine Stokes, African-American nurse who was born to a Mississippi sharecropper’s family, Tsobinar Tadevosyan, Armenian survivor of a Stalinist gulag, Anne Perry, mystery novelist, Kiyo Tanaka, Japanese news anchor for the deaf, Raquel Ribeiro, city council member in Brazil, Christine Durham, Utah Supreme Court Justice, and poet Emma Lou Thayne. Olene Walker, former Utah governor, wrote the forward to this book.
Two other Mormon women I’d like to learn more about are Ariel Bybee and Karen Ashton. A former Metropolitan Opera Star, Ariel Bybee also served as Relief Society President in her ward. Karen Ashton, mother of 11 children, is a major contributor to quality of life in Utah County. A fund raiser and supporter of the Orem City Library, she also founded the Timpanogos Story Telling Festival and co-founded Thanksgiving Point.
There are scores of other Mormon women who exemplify a commitment to excellence in their lives—exemplary women who have handled challenges in their lives, including divorce. Let’s have lessons about women of faith who live beyond the circle of church and family. I want examples of flesh and blood women of today’s world—not hallowed pioneers. I hunger to learn about women notable in their own right.
Crossposted at http://annmjohnson.wordpress.com.