Empowering Women God’s Way

By: Bonnie
August 1, 2012

As I watch my daughters grow into women, a yearning grows more insistent daily that they will know the power they have. I want great things for them.

I want them to be free. I want them to be happy. I want them to be smart, and courageous, and kind. I also want them to be resilient, unintimidated by the difficulties they will face, difficulties that are often unique to women. I want them to feel confident in their knowledge, abilities, and relationships. I want them to learn how to learn why they’re here and what they’ve agreed to do and I want them to know how to discover if they’re successful. I want them to know the power they have to do all of that.

In contemplating what would make this possible for them, it has occurred to me that the most important thing they need is to know how to receive revelation. If they are connected to God, all that I want for them will flow naturally to them. So how do they connect to God most effectively? In church? Through a Sunday School teacher? Through Young Women leaders? Through the bishop? Through me?

I’ve been doing this church thing long enough to realize that at best, we reach people only marginally through regular involvement in the official structure of the kingdom or even the structure of our family, though those structures serve to create havens of peace for other, more effective activities. What really creates power occurs personally in a very Alma 32 experiment. If what we study, pray about, act upon, and evaluate in our experience with God leads us to him, we grow more skilled in the language of revelation. If we do not do those things, it’s often less important what other things we’re doing.

I recently wrote about an upcoming book, The Beginning of Better Days (which releases tomorrow from Deseret Book). Since then a publicist has contacted me to offer a copy for review. Over the past few days I’ve devoured the book, and though it’s small and just over a hundred twenty pages, I think it may be one of the most useful books published of late for women who want to embrace a real road to revelation.

How in the world could a book accomplish that?

It begins with an essay by Virginia Hinckley Pearce in which she describes a bit of her journey. Mentoring, even through reading a stranger’s story, is an effective beginning for most of us. Her observations about how the temple is inseparable from the work of Relief Society (God’s covenant organization for engaging the divine in women) both in Joseph’s day and in ours, were compelling and poignant. Her insights were often profound, but even more important was her story of her journey. We miss everything if we miss that we cannot gain what she has without doing something like she’s done; there is no shortcut to the spirit of prophecy that we can pick up painlessly from her words. There is, however, hope for all of us.

Sheri Dew’s essay is structured quite differently, travelling through a number of issues women face, sprinkled liberally with her personal experience and quotes from other leaders. It will be compelling for an entirely different group of people, though she also confirms the central place of the temple in this road to revelation. She teases out some crucial issues, like priesthood keys, that Joseph discusses with the Nauvoo sisters but which could be confusing for the casual modern reader. For instance, in clarifying that the concept of priesthood keys also includes “keys of knowledge, intelligence, and power obtained in the temple” (p. 47, advance reader’s edition), Dew adds depth to the words of the Prophet that “the keys of the kingdom are about to be given them, that they may be able to detect every thing false” (April 28, 1842 Minutes). This knowledge, ability, and confidence may be the most important development of mortal life, for men and for women.

Following their thoughts are excerpts of the Minutes, carefully preserved by Eliza Snow, of the six Relief Society meetings Joseph Smith directly addressed. His words constitute an original source as valuable as scripture itself and unique in modern scripture in that it is entirely focused on women: what the kingdom offers them and what they can contribute in return. Combined with the inestimably valuable work of the Joseph Smith Papers Project, which places at the disposal of people worldwide the original source material of the latter-day kingdom-building he began, this book brings to women everywhere the prophetic presence that makes possible beginning that road of personal revelation.

Primary sources, and a primer for how to engage them. With the patterns of study and faith offered, any woman can receive the power of the priesthood, and with it the ministering of angels and the presence of God.

This is the thing I want most for my daughters. The journey is theirs to embrace or not, but the pattern is a pearl of great price. When it goes on sale tomorrow, you might want to check it out.

Cross-posted at Bonnie Blythe.

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12 Responses to Empowering Women God’s Way

  1. Stephen R. Marsh on August 1, 2012 at 8:20 PM

    Thank you for sharing that.

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  2. Will on August 1, 2012 at 8:22 PM

    Bonnie,

    That is one of the best posts I have read in a very long time and illustrates what Alma was saying. The seed is the word of God. It is not Faith as misrepresented in the Primary song.

    What will change your daughters, or anyone for that matter, is the Word of God being planted in their heart and then tested by exercising faith in the word that has been planted.

    Great post.

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  3. Th. on August 1, 2012 at 9:46 PM

    .

    Will this include, for instance, the revelation empowering women to heal that was oft quoted well into the 20th century but has since completely disappeared? I assume not, but I’m curious because as I read more about the first hundred years of the Church, we were just more radical in empowering women in many ways than we are know. Arguably, at least.

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  4. Howard on August 1, 2012 at 11:20 PM

    Virginia Hinckley Pearce’s journey…Mentoring..how the temple is inseparable from the work of Relief Society…the central place of the temple in this road to revelation…crucial issues, like priesthood keys.  Since there is no shortcut to the spirit of prophecy I assume I have to read the book to understand how these loosely related items tie together to accomplish that goal?

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  5. Hedgehog on August 2, 2012 at 1:20 AM

    Hardly fair to say when I haven’t read it, but it sounds like the sort of book I’d hurl across the room in frustration. Books designed specifically ‘for women’ generally have that effect on me :-) . I’ve never found RS as “God’s covenant organization for engaging the divine in women” very convincing, and the whole history of women and the church is fraught with contradictions…

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  6. Bonnie on August 2, 2012 at 3:07 PM

    Stephen and Will, thanks.

    Th., yes, there is mention of female healing and a context around it. Since I believe in the gift of healing (“thumb” back through my previous posts to find one on it) I am very interested in that treatment as well. It isn’t in-depth, but it was incredibly valuable to me to read the words of the prophet Joseph.

    Howard, yup, pretty much! For a short book, it does touch on a great many things.

    Hedgehog, I feel like I’ve met a soulmate! I never hear anyone talk about hurling books against walls, but that’s often my first impression with many (and why I don’t read fiction.) The power, to me, of this little volume is that while it does provide a primer for those not habituated to reading primary sources (especially since this is actually a do-the-best-you-can recording made by a contemporary), it provides the real feel of the day. It is Joseph’s words, and you hold them in your hand and you feel the truth that they have for you. It is not filtered through nearly 200 years of culture. You get to form your own opinion. I like that about it.

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  7. Ray on August 2, 2012 at 7:15 PM

    Bonnie, I left this comment on your personal blog, but I want to leave it here, as well:

    “the most important thing they need is to know how to receive revelation.”

    I agree that is important – and I think we collectively divorce it from the concept of all people being children of God. Those two concepts are intertwined in such a way that divorcing them from each other does real damage, imo.

    What do I want for my children?

    I don’t want them to learn to fly an airplane; I want them to learn to be pilots.

    If you’re interested:

    “Helping My Children Learn and Construct Their Own Understandings” (http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com/2011/10/helping-my-children-learn-how-to.html)

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  8. Bonnie on August 2, 2012 at 8:48 PM

    Thanks for your contributions, Ray, and the link to your thoughts on the subject.

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  9. Hedgehog on August 3, 2012 at 1:31 AM

    Bonnie: “I feel like I’ve met a soulmate! I never hear anyone talk about hurling books against walls,”
    It’s not just me then. :-)
    The old RS manuals tended to get that treatment, especially if I was trying to prepare a lesson from them! I quite like that we all have the same manuals now.

    “but that’s often my first impression with many (and why I don’t read fiction.)”
    I read a lot of fiction (if reading can be an addiction, that’s me), but I am very picky about my authors.
    Mostly these days I read the books my kids are reading, so as to be able to discuss them (this started because their reading age is ahead of their actual age and I had to be sure the material, whilst being challenging from a language perspective, was age appropriate etc.), so I generally have a pile of books on the go.

    “The power, to me, of this little volume is that while it does provide a primer for those not habituated to reading primary sources (especially since this is actually a do-the-best-you-can recording made by a contemporary), it provides the real feel of the day. It is Joseph’s words, and you hold them in your hand and you feel the truth that they have for you. It is not filtered through nearly 200 years of culture. You get to form your own opinion. I like that about it.”
    Sounds more hopeful maybe. I do dislike books that push an agenda, and many of the things I have read and heard quoting JS about RS in the past seem to be doing just that: seemingly cherrypicking quotations, and using the statements in way that assumes (or even states) RS is the same now as it was then, which it patently is not. Give me the facts and let me form my opinion is my preference certainly.
    Not enough for me to order it sight unseen (and I doubt my local library can be persuaded to buy it), but if I see it the lds bookshop I’ll certainly take a look through, and you never know…

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  10. Becca on August 4, 2012 at 7:32 AM

    I pick up every little thing I can find about women in the Church. Just because it seems like there is little published.

    In my review I mentioned that a few months ago I was walking through Deseret Book looking for something that was about women in the Church, women and the priesthood, ANYTHING that addressed the “hard” topics of women (usually people just skate over that and say “Women are AWESOME, they don’t even NEED the priesthood”, which is a load of crock). I was just a few months early, because this book does a lot of what I was hoping for – including address (albeit briefly) a lot of those “hard” topics. I thought Sheri Dew did a pretty good job of taking them head on in her essay, even if I didn’t agree with a lot of how she said things. But more perspectives are always better than a few (or none), so like I said, I grab up everything I can. Although I kind of felt like I was lapping up drops of water falling off a leaf in the rain forest, rather than drinking heartily from a fresh spring. What I am really looking for is that fresh spring, but parched as I am, I’ll take the drops of water from the rain forest leaves any day.

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