“Finding Joy In Our Divine Potential” (YW Lesson 5, Manual 1)
Posted by Karen on January 27, 2012
(Note: An earlier version of this post was first published at Beginnings New, a blog focused entirely on the YW lessons and program.)
Here are some quotations from talks by Elder Ballard, Sister Beck, and Sis. Dew, with references to D&C 138, Moses 5, and 1 Nephi 8. I’ve added some of my own thoughts and questions along the way on how this might help someone teach about the divine potential of Young Women.
On Women’s Unique Gifts
Sisters, we, your brethren, cannot do what you were divinely designated to do from before the foundation of the world. We may try, but we cannot ever hope to replicate your unique gifts. There is nothing in this world as personal, as nurturing, or as life changing as the influence of a righteous woman.
It seems to me we will have a lot to learn, once we cross the veil, as to what exactly is so unique about each gender, and to what extent which gifts cannot be “replicated.” For now, I believe the most important point to gain from Elder Ballard is that whatever those gifts exactly are, there are gifts that cannot be replicated. As Sis. Beck puts it, “We have the female half to take care of, and if we don’t do our part, no one else is going to do it for us.” (Visiting Teaching Message, “Understand the Divine Roles of Women,” Feb. 2009.)
Women As “Noble and Great Ones”
As spirit daughters of God, women “received their first lessons in the world of spirits and were prepared to come forth” (D&C 138:56) on the earth. They were among the “noble and great ones” (D&C 138:55) who “shouted for joy” (Job 38:7) at the creation of the earth
I think this is a vital concept to understand: women too, we too received “first lessons.” We were among the “noble and great ones.” Perhaps we were also taught by our Heavenly Mother? And perhaps alongside her Husband, she still watches over us, still nurtures us? They must both be so delighted when we teach our children to think clearly and to have faith. She must want us to be strong, like she is. Every divine attribute we women have – everything we can identify as “divine” in us – I imagine must be what she too is like.
As I’m now looking closer at D&C 138, I see that Sis. Beck is not just picking up on an implication in the text; the language is actually rather direct: “Among the great and mighty ones who were assembled in this vast congregation of the righteous were Father Adam, the Ancient of Days and father of all, And our glorious Mother Eve, with many of her faithful daughters who had lived through the ages and worshiped the true and living God” (v. 38-39). Quite direct. Eve, and many of her daughters (us?), were among those considered “great” and “mighty.” How might that change the perspective of Young Women as they ponder their place in God’s work?
Consecrating All Our Gifts, All Our Experience
[My mother] had devoted her life to progress. Though it was uncommon at the time, she was university educated and advancing in a career. Following her marriage, children arrived in quick succession; and in a short span of years, she was the mother of a large family. All the knowledge she had acquired, all her natural abilities and gifts, all her skills were channeled into an organization that had no earthly bounds. As a covenant-keeping daughter of God, she had prepared all her life for motherhood.
I was recently at a park where I met a group of women with mother hearts. They were young, covenant-keeping women. They were bright and had obtained advanced degrees from respected universities. Now they were devoting their considerable gifts to planning dinner that evening and sharing housekeeping ideas.
It would be wonderful to have a discussion with the girls about (1) How could anything we learn or do before motherhood help us be better, wiser, more capable mothers? For example, these women had “advanced degrees.” How does that, or jobs, or whatever else, change us and/or prepare us? and (2) Why is that important? Is that important? What exactly is the work that goes on with children? What is our opportunity, exactly? And how does giving ourselves more fully to teaching children doing the work of God? or is it?
I have my thoughts, but to open up some of these questions in the right setting, when the Spirit was there in the classroom, would be a really interesting, and probably really important, discussion.
More Influence By Being a Mother
Have you ever wondered why prophets have taught the doctrine of motherhood—and it is doctrine—again and again? I have. I have thought long and hard about the work of women of God. And I have wrestled with what the doctrine of motherhood means for all of us. This issue has driven me to my knees, to the scriptures, and to the temple—all of which teach an ennobling doctrine regarding our most crucial role as women. It is a doctrine about which we must be clear if we hope to stand “steadfast and immovable” regarding the issues that swirl around our gender. For Satan has declared war on motherhood. He knows that those who rock the cradle can rock his earthly empire. And he knows that without righteous mothers loving and leading the next generation, the kingdom of God will fail.
I really liked the line “He knows that those who rock the cradle can rock his earthly empire.” Having worked with YW several years, and having worked with my own children, it is amazing how little influence I can have over the YW and how immense my influence can be with my own children. I have a daughter who is bright and confident. We can think together, learn together, read scripture together. She is quite startlingly prepared to face the world and I think she will come out strong, faithful, and a leader. Her strength will come from her own choices, yes, but how wonderful to combine her faith and “first lessons” received before this life, with “second lessons” received immediately in a covenant-making, covenant-keeping home. How I wish I could give that kind of atmosphere to some of the YW I’ve seen over the years.
Sometimes it is a teacher, a leader, or a friend who provides the right words, love, or example that changes someone’s life. But there is no denying that the home has great influence, given daily and often unconsciously, and this whether for good or for bad.
Blessings of the Fathers, and the Mothers
Parents, teachers, and leaders can help young people prepare for the blessings of Abraham. What are those blessings? Abraham tells us in Abraham 1:2. He says he wanted “the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer; … to be one who possessed great knowledge, … to be a father of many nations, a prince of peace, and desiring to receive instructions, and to keep the commandments of God, I became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers.”
Where are these blessings Abraham received? They come only to those who have a temple sealing and marriage. A man cannot become a “father of many nations” without being sealed to his wife. Likewise, Abraham could not hold the right belonging to the fathers without a wife who had the right belonging to the mothers.
Sis. Beck points out something that both Sarah and Rebekah had, that she will call in a moment “pivotal” to the history of the the House of Israel. They had “the right belonging to the mothers.” I think Sis. Beck is amazing at drawing out implications of scripture for women. But it’s not just that I think she’s a creative reader, I think she is seeing doctrines that are actually there, but which take a careful thinker to see and explain as she does. Why these ideas aren’t more plain I don’t know, but I’m grateful for Sis. Beck for giving me a head start in figuring them out. :) What is this “right” belonging to the fathers and the mothers? Something I certainly want to study out more in the scriptures…
Being Like Rebekah
The stories of Abraham and Sarah and of Isaac and Rebekah are found in Genesis. Abraham and Sarah had only one son, Isaac. If Abraham was to be the “father of many nations,” how important was Isaac’s wife, Rebekah? She was so important that he sent his servant hundreds of miles to find the right young woman—one who would keep her covenants, one who understood what it meant to form an eternal family.
In Genesis 24:60, Rebekah is blessed to be “the mother of thousands of millions.” Where do we find those kinds of blessings? They are received in the temple.
The story of Isaac and Rebekah is an example of the man, who has the keys, and the woman, who has the influence, working together to ensure the fulfillment of their blessings. Their story is pivotal. The blessings of the house of Israel depended on a man and a woman who understood their place in the plan and their responsibilities to form an eternal family, to bear children, and to teach them.
In our day we have the responsibility to send “Isaac” and “Rebekah” forth from our homes and classrooms. Every young man and young woman should understand his or her role in this great partnership—that they are each an “Isaac” or a “Rebekah.” Then they will know with clarity what they have to do.
I like her way of saying that we need to teach the young women to be like Rebekah, who “would keep her covenants, one who understood what it meant to form an eternal family.” In addition, we’re going to need to teach them do lots of careful and committed scripture studying in order to understand their covenants and what it means to form an eternal family. A lifelong pursuit of truth, no doubt.
On Teaching Roles and Scriptures Behind Them (And, on Eve’s Rejoicing)
And, a few (somewhat rambling) thoughts of my own: I think it’s crucial that we not only teach about “roles” but about the scriptures and doctrines behind those roles, and also to teach that we’re not done learning about those roles. It is by studying the scriptures that our heart becomes ready to do whatever God wants us to do. It isn’t by talking kids into liking playing with kids that we will keep them active in the church; it is by going to the scriptures etc. over and over again that they become converted to them, and it is only by consistently learning from the scriptures that we do anything of real importance. They keep us anchored, or rather, they keep us moving. Remember Lehi’s vision that Nephi saw too? Well, those who went on the path were headed toward the tree, but when there was confusing mists they couldn’t see their way anymore and didn’t stick around. (See 1 Nephi 8: 23-24.) It is only those who held the rod who made it. And the rod is the word of God, no? And it’s not just finding the rod that allowed them to make it. It because they were holding to it, hand over hand, “clinging” to the rod until they made it to the tree, and then once they got there, they stayed by “falling down” in joy and humility. To teach kids that “motherhood is good” is something like showing them the path in hopes they somehow like that path and can sorta figure out about where it goes even when there are mists. But where’s the “joy” (as the lesson title suggests) in that anyway? If we simply are told “this is the way it is” that might be a reason to obey, but not to enjoy. Eve rejoiced, not just obeyed:
And Eve, his wife, heard all these things and was glad, saying: Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient. And Adam and Eve blessed the name of God, and they made all things known unto their sons and their daughters.
Eve was glad. Why was it that she was so happy? If we studied what she knew and why she rejoiced, would we rejoice also? Would our YW rejoice? And would we, out of joy, and not out of “that’s what you’re supposed to do,” also “[make] all things known unto [our] sons and [our] daughters?”
Personally, I think that is the route we ought to go: to understand the kinds of things that Eve understood (the best we can) and what made her so glad. This isn’t a work of defining roles just to define them again the world, this isn’t a work of what women are supposed to do and men are supposed to do. At root, this a work of a covenant, made to Adam and Eve, one they desperately hope we will continue to be a part of through our generations and beyond. And whatever this covenant is about, and whatever it means to be saved, that knowledge is something Eve, and Adam, naturally gave to “their sons and their daughters.” Whatever that knowledge is, it will be found in the scriptures and in the temple, through pondering and praying. That’s where we will find the real work, and the real joy, of whatever is our “divine potential.”
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