Kimball Lesson 20: The women of the Church
Posted by douglashunter on May 5, 2007
Lesson 20: The Women of the Church
For Mother’s Day I have been asked to teach this lesson, hopefully, others will be doing the same, and jumping forward to lesson 20 won’t be too disruptive. As usual I’ll give a brief outline of the lesson and then go into some ideas / thoughts that I hope can serve to generate some discussion. Frankly, I am looking forward to discussing this lesson because I find the material so challenging, but more on that later.
From the life of Spencer W. Kimball
- Kimball recounts a story of his mother’s great capacity for service, helping another woman with sewing, serving in the relief society, serving continuously without complaint. Kimball states that his mother “breathed service into all her actions.”
- Women play an important part in Heavenly fathers plan. Women are often instinctively sensitive to things of eternal consequence.
Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball
Having been given different responsibilities, women and men are to work together in a partnership of equality and respect.
- God “is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34). We have full equality as recipients of God’s perfected love for us. Women are to walk along side men not in front of or behind.
- Men’s and women’s roles are eternally different; mother hood and sisterhood vs. fatherhood and priesthood. Men and women were given different assignments before we came here. Women should be treated well, they have work to do that is as important as men’s work.
- Women in the church want to be respected and revered as equals.
- Relief Society is the Lord’s organization for women and is a complement to the priesthood.
-Men and women are dependent upon and different from each other as complements. We are encouraged to seek what is “beautifully basic” in the differences.
God has called women to help enrich, protect, and guard the home and family
-Being a righteous woman today is especially noble, and the influence of such women is great, “ten fold what it might be” in different times. The home is society’s basic and most noble institution. Righteous women can preserve the home, even as other institutions fail.
-The messages of the media concerning women’s fulfillment and choices to marry or have children are false.
-Eve was happy to have eaten the forbidden fruit, and began the human race with gladness.
-Motherhood is a sacred partnership with God and husbands. There is the responsibility of giving birth and raising children to serve the lord -a sacred dedication to rearing, fostering, nurturing children.
- Too many women find distractions from raising children.
- It is the greatest honor for women to assist in God’s plan. Being a good woman and raising good children is the way to find greatest joy for a woman.
The Lord has promised the blessings of eternal family life to all faithful women.
- Family life does not always work out s it should here on earth, death, divorce and other things may prevent a woman from finding a righteous marriage partner, but in eternity these women will have this opportunity, and be blessed beyond their capacity to express.
-Marriage and motherhood are not necessary to keep the great commandment to love God and our fellow men.
-”Those of you who do not now experience the traditional woman’s role, not by choice, but for reasons beyond control can still do much to help others.”
Each Woman should seek to fulfill her divine potential
- Women need to appropriately develop their talents, and learn as much as they can with an eye towards marriage, motherhood and domestic responsibilities. Kimball encourages education and experience clearly towards the end of better fulfilling the role of wife and mother.
- “We want our homes to be blessed with sister scriptorians-” Women need a knowledge of the scriptures to keep the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself, and because they do so much nurturing.
- The blessings, recognition and status found within the Church are the greatest a woman can receive.
- “Drink in eternal truths” concerning individual identity and the value God places upon you. The Church is the only place where women can learn the truth about who they are and their roles.
Righteous women can be great contributors to the world and to the kingdom of God.
- “There has never been a time in the world when the role of woman has been more confused.” Women in the church can do a great deal to show what the true role of women in the world is. “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.”
-Other women pursue selfish interests Women in the Church are a force for love, truth and righteousness.
-Women will plan an important role in growing the Church in latter days.
Thoughts / questions about the lesson
I think its clear that the main goals of the lesson are:
To appreciate the work women do as part of their commitment to the church.
To emphasize the different roles of men and women in the church.
To encourage women and emphasize their spiritual value.
To encourage women to look to the Church’s description of freedom and the feminine ideal rather than to the larger culture.
To Reassure women that they can and will be in eternal marriage relationships.
These goals make it an interesting lesson to present to the EQ. Certainly it could be used as a lesson of praise, where we all share our appreciation for the women in our lives and the work they do but I’m not sure what kinds of questions I can use to encourage a good discussion along these lines.
When I’ve been part of these discussion in the past they have been stilted. It’s a situation in which the “correct” answers are known beforehand and we are all more than glad to give them. So I see the challenge of this direction as being how to have a good discussion about women, the women in the church, the women in our lives, that can be personal and honest without relying on clichés.
Now, if I’m being totally honest about the lesson I have to admit that my first response to the material is pretty guarded. Not for its appreciation of women but for the way it relies on certain ideas:
1) The idea that biology is destiny.
2) The lesson celebrates the totalizing of women’s experience through the roles of wife and mother.
3) Men are women are stated to be equal but there is still present a structural priority given to the masculine.
4) Domestic space as feminine space.
5) The association of the feminine with nature and intuition.
So it’s difficult for me to see the lesson outside of the challenge posed by this kind of thinking about gender. One possible use of the lesson is as a discussion of gender, the assumptions in the church about the meaning of masculine and feminine, how we feel about these teaching at this point in time. One thing I am certain of is that in broad terms the younger generations of church members do understand the meaning of gender differently than older generations.
Another point of entry into a discussion of women and gender could be to emphasize the repeated statements that men and women are equal but different. How do we conceptualize this difference / equality in our personal relationships with women? How do they play out in our relationships with wives, mothers, sisters, friends? Are the differences between men and women larger or more significant that the differences between individual human beings?
Another approach could be to start with the statement concerning the similarity between men and women.
In short the question I’m posing to myself concerning this lesson is, how to have an honest discussion about women, gender, relationships, that does not rely on gender role stereotypes and safe answers.