The 5th Sunday Project

the 5th sunday projectIn today’s world of internet communication, we Mormons have access to a lot of information about our faith. [ ie – Websites are dedicated to our temple ceremonies, scriptures, and interests. The Bloggernacle is full of thoughts and attitudes about devotion, practice, and culture. And The Church itself puts out videos, article, recourses, and essays on] Some of this information is troubling and difficult to absorb. Many are concerned. These concerns range from authenticity questions about LDS scripture to race imbalances.

My concern is for women in the church. I am concerned that in our patriarchal structure of governance, women have limited visibility and voice. I am concerned that in the exclusivity of male-only Priesthood, women have a reduced development in spiritual gifts and inadequate outlets sacred expression.

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The Exponent’s Favorite Charities for Giving Tuesday

Giving TuesdayWe’re all familiar with Black Friday and lately, Cyber Monday is gaining popularity, but I’ve been super excited about Giving Friday the past couple years. #GivingTuesday is a global day dedicated to giving back and occurs on the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving. On this day, charities, families, businesses, community centers, and students around the world will come together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity and to give.

Here at The Exponent, we wanted to list some of our favorite charities that we like to give to and trust for their good work. Below are some thoughts from our permabloggers and other Exponent II community members.

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October Young Women Lesson: How Can I Develop Christlike Love?

As I was reading through October’s lessons, I was very excited about the focus on Christ and love. The lessons on the Come Follow Me website are very good. In this lesson, I tried to get away from the cerebral aspects of “we need to love everyone” and go into the “how” to love everyone.

Washing of Feet

Lesson Prep/Intro

The week before the lesson, I think it would be good to ask the students to spend time thinking of their favorite story of Jesus. You could ask some of the older girls who studied New Testament last year in seminary to share a story they learned about that was important to them to share with the younger girls, or you could ask everyone to spend some time reading in the Gospels this week in their personal study. Then when you start class, you could ask each to share the story they picked and write it on the board in a list.

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Relief Society Lesson 13: Relief Society: True Charity and Pure Religion

Relief Society Lesson 13: Relief Society: True Charity and Pure Religion

From the Life of Eliza R. Snow

The text briefly mentions that Lorenzo Snow’s sister, Eliza R. Snow, served as president of the Relief Society.  As it is highly likely that much of Lorenzo Snow’s knowledge and appreciation for the Relief Society can be credited to his sister, I’ll begin by reviewing her Relief Society service.

Eliza R. Snow was instrumental in the initiation of the Relief Society. She was one of about 12 women whom Sarah Kimball invited to discuss the idea in 1842.  Eliza R. Snow then drafted the original constitution for the organization. Reference A  After discussing their plan with Joseph Smith, Smith expanded their original vision, telling them:

I will organize the women under the priesthood, after the pattern of the priesthood. –Joseph Smith Reference A

Joseph Smith organized the Relief Society in the format of the priesthood and gave the organization autonomy unparalleled in the modern church. Reference B

[Joseph Smith] propos’d  that the Sisters elect a presiding officer to preside over  them, and let that presiding officer choose two Counsellors  to assist in the duties of her Office— that he would ordain  them to preside over the Society— and let them preside  just as the Presidency, preside over the church; and if they need his instruction— ask him, he will give it from  time to time. Let this Presidency serve as a constitution— all their decisions be considered law; and acted upon as such. If any Officers are wanted to carry out the designs of the Institution, let them be appointed and set apart, as  Deacons,Teachers &c. are among us. -Eliza R. Snow quoting Joseph Smith in Nauvoo Relief Society Minutes Reference C

After officially organizing the Relief Society, Joseph Smith gave several lectures to the new Society.  In his personal diary, he wrote that he:

gave a lecture on the pries[t]hood shewing how the Sisters would come in possession of the privileges & blessings & gifts of the priesthood & that the signs should follow them. such as healing the sick casting out devils &c. & that they might attain unto these blessings. by a virtuous life & conversation & diligence in keeping all the commandments. -Joseph Smith Reference D 

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Daughters in My Kingdom: “Live Up to Your Privilege” (Chapter 10)

After the previous nine chapters discuss themes throughout the history of the Relief Society, this concluding chapter is the call to add yourself to that history. This chapter is full of great quotes and it would be very easy to pick your favorites, read them, and then discuss them, which is what I’ll do here.

Daughters of God

This section has a quote from M. Russell Ballard that I really like. As an opening activity, I would have this written up on a board and ask the class to pick out traits listed in it and circle them or list them on the side. I highlighted some of them here:

“We believe in and are counting on your goodness and your strength, your propensity for virtue and valor, your kindness and courage, your strength and resilience. We believe in your mission as women of God. … We believe that the Church simply will not accomplish what it must without your faith and faithfulness, your innate tendency to put the well-being of others ahead of your own, and your spiritual strength and tenacity. And we believe that God’s plan is for you to become queens and to receive the highest blessings any woman can receive in time or eternity.”

I think it is interesting to note that the most-used word is strength.

When I was growing up, one of my Young Women’s leaders moved away. One of her last Sundays at church was a Fast Sunday and one of her non-member neighbors came to church with her. This neighbor went up to the pulpit and talked about the service that my YW leader had done for her and said, “When I look at her, I see Christ. She looks like Christ to me.” I think that is probably one of the highest compliments I’ve ever heard. These traits highlighted above are all Christlike traits. And not only are we like Christ, because we take on Christ’s name at baptism, we walk every day as if we are Christ himself and can be saviors for others and ourselves. When I went to the Relief Society minutes where the quote from this chapter is found, the minutes note that Joseph Smith stated, “It is an honor to save yourselves.”

True Charity, a Legacy Passed from Heart to Heart

In this section, I like Elder Eyring’s quote,

I will speak to you … of the great legacy those who went before you in the Relief Society have passed on to you. The part … which seems to me most important and persistent is that charity is at the heart of the society and is to come into the heart, to be part of the very nature, of every member. Charity meant to them far more than a feeling of benevolence. Charity is born of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and is an effect of His Atonement working in the hearts of the members. …

The sentence “Charity meant to them far more than a feeling of benevolence” struck me. I would even say it’s more than filling out a tithing slip or making dinner for someone. After the last section and thinking about how we are like Christ, I think that charity asks us to see Christ in the people around us. The chapter tells some stories of charity demonstrated in the lives of the women in a family, but I think it would be neat to have a story of your own to share or have the group share their own stories.

My Turn to Serve

What I like about this next section is the stories of service relating to death. Now, I’ll be the first one to say that I get worn down by the third, fourth, fifth, etc. dying child story in a single conference weekend. Talking about death can be draining and sometimes feels emotionally manipulative. But I liked the emphasis on the service rendered during the time of death. I think that because it can be difficult in our culture to discuss death and grief, having examples of appreciated service can be helpful for when we find the people around us, or ourselves, in mourning. This is really where we can “mourn with those that mourn” and the Relief Society can really live up to its name. Again, personal stories are great for this, but it’s sometimes nice to have the stories from the manual if it’s too hard to share personal stories about grief.

“Lead the World… in Everything that is Praiseworthy”

This is the rally cry and ultimate urging of this book: band together, pick up your tools, and be amazing. The heading for this section is not passive and is not timid, and neither should we be. What I really like is the phrase “everything that is praiseworthy.” If you think about all the things that are praiseworthy… well, it’s a lot of things! Art, science, performance, parenting, mediating, etc. I can’t think of too many non-criminal activities that aren’t praiseworthy. So take charge and live the best you can.

At this point, I think I would ask the class if they can identify what is keeping them back from doing something “praiseworthy” that they’ve always wanted to do and if it’s possible to remove that. That can provide a lot of discussion.

For me, the biggest hinderance to this is feeling like it’s too late, that I should have done all those praiseworthy things earlier. I’d write off things, “I can’t become a great pianist- I didn’t start lessons at 5!” or “I’d never be able to contribute anything to my field of study- only young people in college do that.” However, earlier in this chapter, the phrase, “potential as holy women” is used, and when I think of a “holy woman” I imagine a wizened and thoughtful older woman. There is still time!

I also get held back if I worry that I won’t succeed or if I can’t give the time needed for success. But even a little bit is a success.

In preparing for this lesson, I listened to the TED talk Unlock the intelligence, passion, and greatness of girls by Leymah Gbowee, peace and women’s rights activist and Nobel laureate. Trigger warning: rape, incest.

In watching her tell her story, I was impressed by what she and the girls and women she talked about were able to accomplish in such a short time. Gbowee got involved in activism in 1998 and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011. She admits that she wasn’t saving the girls asking to be saved at the beginning. While a listener might say, “Just take that little girl in!” And maybe it wasn’t the best choice, but maybe it was. Our lives don’t have to be perfect to make things better. I also think of the character Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. His change of heart was near the end of his life and that’s ok, too. Or if you’d like a non-fictional character, there are plenty of scripture stories like Saul/Paul in the New Testament, or the woman caught in adultery: “Go and sin no more.”

I think the biggest concern with discussing this chapter is feeling like we have to do it all and immediately. Sometimes “leading in all that is praiseworthy” requires a nap or a break. And knowing your limits is praiseworthy, too.

The chapter finishes with a reminder that,

“The charge to lead out in everything that is praiseworthy, Godlike, uplifting, and purifying is a demanding one. It always has been. But individual Relief Society sisters are not alone in accepting this charge. They are part of a great organization, founded by priesthood authority and strengthened by the teachings and declarations of prophets.”

One of my favorite aspects of Mormonism is the idea of Zion and that we are all working for that, and we are all working together. We believe that Zion has happened on earth at least a couple of times (Enoch’s city, the Book of Mormon peoples post-Christ’s visit), and so it gives us hope that we can again create it. It’s hard, but not impossible and let’s get to it!

What questions/thoughts would you like to add? Also, a Happy Relief Society anniversary to all today!


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