Feed My Soul

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.

Course Correction

Course Correction is a retired English teacher who reads, writes, and helps immigrant women learn English. Her favorite lost cause is fighting for clean air along the Wasatch Front in Utah. She blogs at http://annmjohnson.wordpress.com

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8 Responses

  1. Mhana says:

    I always felt left out of the whole pioneer women are everyone’s ancestors thing, because in fact they are not. The fact is that some people really are descended from Utah pioneers, and most of us are not. So pretending this is the same for everyone is silly. I love the idea of looking at women today, because their sacrifices seem so much more applicable and inspiring. What good would it do to anyone if I walked across Nebraska? It was a huge deal when the pioneers did it but now its just silly. I also love the idea of learning to serve beyond the ward and making a difference outside the church. It is so easy to mentally check off service because of all the time we spend at church. This sounds like a great book.

  2. Caroline says:

    Wow, I’m totally going to buy that book. What an incredible tool for anyone who teaches Relief Society (or anything else). I too hunger to learn about Mormon women who have contributed to the world in wonderful ways. What a great way to open up conversation and conceptual space for Mormon women who so often feel boxed in when they are primarily defined as “wife’ or “mother.”

  3. MB says:

    Interesting idea.

    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./blockquote>

    Sounds like you could create just that. It’s something you are interested in. It’s something you think is needed. You value service on your own without being directed by Church leaders. So try it! Organize a time, invite women to come to your home, and start a group that fills that need getting together researching and learning about women who provide service (which is exactly what you will be doing on a small scale). And the women who also feel the need that you do will benefit greatly.

    I tried it in my ward. Wanting a deeper exploration of theology I chose a topic and a text and spread the word that I was starting a reading/study/discussion group and anyone was invited. The group is small. Often there are only two of us. It’s not a need that many of the women in my ward feel they have too. But it’s been great and thoroughly enjoyable and enlightening and provided a service that a few of us needed.

    I recommend it.

  4. Kirsten says:

    This is one of my very favorite books! I met Carol Grey years ago at a Boston fireside. She was one of the most inspirational women I have ever met. She is sorely missed. And, our very own Laurel Thatcher Ulrich is in the book too!

  5. Suzanne says:

    Wow I can’t wait to get that book and read it! We as mormon women contribute so much to the world outside of church. Thank you so much for letting us know about this book.

  6. EmilyCC says:

    I loved that Mormon ad! I think adding more stories of Mormon women into the Church curriculum is perhaps THE most necessary step to seeing the changes in overall equality in the Church.

    I like to use Women of Covenant sometimes when I teach to bring in stories of women, but I think Mhana makes a good point. They are largely the stories of pioneer women (who are also white and almost exclusively from Utah). I think the modern day examples are so helpful. I wonder if there’s a way to have class members share their experiences in a more detailed and directly applicable way in RS rather than asking the general question, “Does anyone have an experience they’d like to share that pertains to the lesson?”

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