March 2017 Visiting Teaching Message
March brings to us our first visiting teaching message of the year with no words from women or about women.
In the month that we celebrate the founding of the Relief Society, the absence of a story or quote from a woman misses an opportunity to draw attention to any example of how women throughout history have experienced the enabling power of Jesus Christ.
Elder Bednar is quoted in the message, speculating that blessings of persistence and personal strength allowed Nephi to break free of the physical bands that bound him. This caused me to ponder on how personal growth and persistence can help us to break the bands of patriarchal traditions and move towards the gospel of equality modeled so beautifully by Jesus Christ.
In a recent blog on the Christians for Biblical Equality website, Rachel Elizabeth Asproth addresses the problem of a religious history that ignores the experiences of half of humanity. She states:
There is a difference between a story that doesn’t answer every question and a story that excludes entire people groups. When history omits the experiences of women, it’s not because historians have been wise and fair synthesizers of data. It’s because patriarchal history prioritizes the stories of the powerful.
Patriarchal history doesn’t try to erase women because we have been absent or idle. Patriarchy tries to erase women because it judges our stories, experiences, and contributions as less vital than those of men. It tries to repress women’s voices because our stories threaten a false, male-centric narrative.
I do not know who prepares the monthly visiting teaching message published in the Liahona and Ensign. I do not believe them to be wise or fair in choosing to exclude women from a narrative intended for an audience of women.
The image included with the message shows the nameless wife of Nephi kneeling in distress in the periphery while men are the primary actors in the tableau. How can we help women to embrace the atonement when women are voiceless, nameless or absent from the stories chosen to teach us?
Christ demonstrated throughout his ministry a high regard for the inclusion and consenting participation of women in the work of the gospel. What stories, experiences or contributions of women might you share with your sisters to strengthen their confidence in the vitality of Christ’s atonement in their lives as women?
The Exponent Women in the Bible series includes many examples of women enabled through the atoning power of Christ to change or survive their circumstances. Which of these mighty women might be a role model for the sisters you teach?
While praying on the needs of your sisters, read some of the inspiring stories of regular LDS women at The Mormon Women Project website. Be on the look out for stories to illustrate this month’s message and empower your sisters.
Many families have strong traditions of oral histories. Stories from family matriarchs are a source of strength to me as I shared here. Are their examples from your own family history that fortify your testimony? What does it look like in your mind when the atonement breaks the bonds of adversity or false traditions?
What piece of women’s absent spiritual history do you hold? Who could you strengthen by sharing that story?