When DIMK Met ESL
My story starts like this: I was very excited when the Church released Daughters in my Kingdom, the new history of the Relief Society. But months went by, and despite my best intentions, I didn’t read it. I know. I suck. Yet I felt a bit frustrated that the book was not incorporated into Church curriculum. At the very least it seems like it should be studied in Relief Society itself.
Meanwhile, it came to my attention that a few women in our ward were struggling with their English. In another lifetime I taught English as a second language and so I mentioned to our ward’s welfare specialist, Carrie, that I’d be happy to help them. This is where things got tricky. There are procedures and handbooks and certain members of the ward council who feel they needed to be involved in Every. Single. Decision. So while Carrie thought it would be very helpful to have such a group, it might take ages to set up and then would be controlled by well meaning leaders who just can’t keep their fingers out of other people’s pies. No me gusta.
So I cut out the hierarchy. I started a group on my own, just as friends. If it’s not a calling, then I’m under nobody’s jurisdiction (can you tell I have issues with micromanagement?). As soon as I made that decision I felt so good about it. I invited a few women, found a time that worked, and tried to come up with a study plan. What these women really need is to just talk. But we needed a text to read monthly as our springboard, something that would be interesting but also spiritual. And as I pondered this last September at the Exponent Women’s Retreat, it hit me—DIMK was the perfect solution.
It’s not an easy text for a non-native to read, but I don’t regret my choice. A couple of the women are recent converts and I’m proud to have them learn about the early sisters and how kick butt they were. We’ve had fascinating discussions about polygamy (“yes, Joseph did indeed have multiple wives”), the temple, how RS was disbanded and started again. And of course the big cliché is true: I swear I am learning more from these women than they are learning from me. I usually end up crying at some point because I am overcome by the strength and determination of these sisters who are all pioneers.
Let me share what happened this month and then I’ll stop my gushing over my Haitian/Nepalese/Dominican sisters. As is the case with many wards, if you are not on time to ours, you will sit in the foyer. My 13 year old loves when we’re late on Fast Sunday because we get to play “Name that Testimony.” We were on the couch and hear a woman bearing her testimony. I’m usually really good at it. But this time I was stumped. I sat there, entranced by the lovely testimony, and when I stood up to peak in the chapel, I could not believe my eyes. There was Yvette, my shyest, quietest, least fluent friend up there being articulate and totally proficient. I just cried. After sacrament the entire ward was atwitter about the dramatic change in Yvette.
We had our meeting that night. We were reading Chapter 4 and there’s this part where Eliza Snow is encouraging women to speak up: Some women felt reluctant and unprepared to speak in public. Sister Snow gave the following counsel to such sisters: “Do not let your president have to say all. … Has not God endowed you with the gift of speech? … If you are endowed with the Spirit of God, no matter how simple your thoughts may be, they will be edifying to those who hear you.” When I finished reading that out loud, I told Yvette how proud I was that she spoken in front of the entire ward, that that is no small thing. Yvette smiled coyly and said she had been reading the assignment the night before. When she read that passage, she felt as if Sister Smith was speaking directly to her and she knew she had to get up and share her testimony on Sunday, no matter what. She really was endowed with “the gift of speech.” Is she miraculously fluent now? Is she reciting the Gettysburg Address? No. But something is different. She’s more confident and is striking up conversations. I’d love to take the credit, but it’s the Spirit of God and more specifically, the Spirit of Eliza. God bless you President Snow. You do good work.
Have you read DIMK? What do you think? How would you like to see if used in the Church?