The Wise Girl and the Foolish Girl: Feminism in Primary

Posted by on March 19, 2008 in Gender roles, music, Primary, Primary lessons | 53 comments

Now, I know that Primary is not the place to preach my feminist ideals. So, while I don’t think I should do a lesson on the three waves of feminism during sharing time, I do try to bring in examples of underrepresented groups of people whenever I can.

I loved Mary Ann’s guest post on FMH for new verses to Follow the Prophet posted last year about this time. And, since then, I’ve been looking for ways to make some Primary songs a bit more gender inclusive. One of my male evangelical students pointed out Proverbs 14:1 that has made me rethink ways to present, “The Wise Man and the Foolish Man.” The Primary songbook lists Helaman 5:12 and Matthew 7:24-27 as the scriptures that go with this song.

Then, Proverbs 14:1 has the same theme:
“Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.”

Admittingly, there isn’t a “rock” she’s building on, but still the imagery of building and destruction is there.

Now comes the task of how to get the Primary to join me in “The Wise Girl and the Foolish Girl” or a verse about Deborah in “Follow the Prophet.”

I was thinking of showing the kids that Primary songs are a way to learn about scriptures and showing them the footnotes that list the Matthew and Helaman passages. And, then, I would show them that by our own personal scripture study, we can find more connections to these stories and themes.

I worry that I will look like I’m trying to indoctrinate the kids, but really, my primary purpose in using songs that we’ve changed is for children to see themselves in the scriptures. I want my African-American girls to see the above picture of Deborah, I want the Hispanic kids (and the rest of us) to learn some Primary songs in Spanish.

What do you do in Church (Primary, youth programs, even with adults) to include all members of your class?

Artwork: “Deborah Under the Palm Tree” by Adriene Cruz


  1. “It’s not really wise to try to analyze something that happened over a century ago with our 21st century perspective.”

    I don’t know how else to learn from the past but to analyze it. Shouldn’t we be trying to understand how and why things happen? I understand that God has much greater perspective than we do, and so it is unlikely that we’ll come to the ‘correct’ conclusions, but some part of me won’t let go of the need to try and understand anyway. Now, I can hear you saying, ‘As long as you let your faith guide you.’ Well, I’m doing my best, which is all I could ask of anyone.

  2. some part of me won’t let go of the need to try and understand anyway.

    Of course. This is human nature, I think. For me, the key is not to recognize, as you said, that our understanding is limited. That was my point.

    I’m inquisitive myself. In my mind, it’s one thing to want to understand and to think and analyze. It’s another thing to bank our decisions and faith on our limited understanding of something that may bother us and to let our questions take over our faith. I have seen people do this, and I think it’s sad. But I hope not to ever be misunderstood to be one who thinks that questions in and of themselves are bad. I think it’s all about how and why we approach questions and how much we let our questions dominate faith. Faith won’t remove questions, but I think it can increase the chance that we can either find answers or discern when and how to let some things go.

    “I know God loveth His children, nevertheless I do not know the meaning of all things.” That has become an anchor scripture for me, to remind myself that even prophets sometimes don’t understand the meaning of all things. And that’s part of faith.

  3. Primary is EXACTLY where feminism should begin. And if earlier in Nursery A is possible, then do so ;o)

    You’ll find a creative way to do it, and at times sharpness must suffice.

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