Being Political? Women, Healing and the Uses of Mormon History

Kris Wright is a former BCC blogger. 

Every important new discovery about the past changes how we think about the present, and what we expect from the future; on the other hand every change in the conditions of the present and in the expectations for the future revises our perceptions of the past.  In this complex context, history is born ostensibly as a reflection on the past: a reflection which is never isolated from the present or the future.  History deals with human life as it “flows” through time. [1]

Recently I listened to a podcast interview here at BCC in which Scott B. interviewed Jonathan Stapley about women and Mormon healing rituals.  During the discussion, Jonathan was able to share his broad knowledge of Mormon history and spoke about the history of women and healing in his trademark erudite manner.  Because I was already familiar with the historical sources used in the forthcoming paper and the conclusions drawn from them, the most interesting part of the podcast for me occurred in the final eleven minutes, where the theme of the uses of history and the question of objectivity emerged.  Scott asked Jonathan what his hopes were for the paper and what it meant for the modern LDS Church.  [Read more…]

The Physical Gathering

While most people I know enjoy Conference weekend for the opportunity to curl up on the couch in pajamas, making cinnamon rolls, or just for taking a church vacation, Saturday morning finds me dressing in my Sunday best and heading off to my ward building.  [Read more…]

Temple Healer

Youth temple trip. I am the driver of four young people. Nearing the end of the hour long journey, I hear a groan from the back seat. In the rear view mirror, I see rolling eyes and a face with a greenish tinge. Being an experienced mother of five, I ask my son to get the bucket out of the back. It’s not there. The only option is a lunch box sized cooler. I can see the angel Moroni and hit the accelerator. Half a block from the temple, the sounds of retching and the splash of vomit fill the van. [Read more…]

Situating the Archangel Raphael in Section 128: A Theory

One of my favourite passages of LDS scripture, both personally and historically, is found in Section 128 of the Doctrine and Covenants, which is an epistle from Joseph Smith:

And again, what do we hear? Glad tidings from Cumorah! Moroni, an angel from heaven, declaring the fulfilment of the prophets—the book to be revealed. A voice of the Lord in the wilderness of Fayette, Seneca county, declaring the three witnesses to bear record of the book! The voice of Michael on the banks of the Susquehanna, detecting the devil when he appeared as an angel of light! The voice of Peter, James, and John in the wilderness between Harmony, Susquehanna county, and Colesville, Broome county, on the Susquehanna river, declaring themselves as possessing the keys of the kingdom, and of the dispensation of the fulness of times!

And again, the voice of God in the chamber of old Father Whitmer, in Fayette, Seneca county, and at sundry times, and in divers places through all the travels and tribulations of this Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints! And the voice of Michael, the archangel; the voice of Gabriel, and of Raphael, and of divers angels, from Michael or Adam down to the present time, all declaring their dispensation, their rights, their keys, their honors, their majesty and glory, and the power of their priesthood; giving line upon line, precept upon precept; here a little, and there a little; giving us consolation by holding forth that which is to come, confirming our hope. [Read more…]

For I was an hungered, and ye shot me

Cynthia’s thread reminded me that the dinner conversation after the leadership training session at my stake conference was one of the highlights of my weekend. [Read more…]

Oil Poll

(Try to say that three times fast.)

[poll id=”117″]

For other interesting consecrated oil reading see here and here.

The Good News about Sister Dalton’s Challenge

At Women’s Conference this year, Sister Elaine S. Dalton, the General YW President issued a challenge to the conference participants, which she also reiterated at a recent youth conference in my region. [Read more…]

A little spot enclosed by grace

My neighbour is a quiet, thoughtful farmer who runs a biodynamic CSA.  In one of our recent conversations, I discovered that he has a university degree in fine art.  I asked him, when he decided to farm instead of pursuing his painting.  He thought for a moment and then replied, “I just decided that the land would become the canvas”.  [Read more…]

Women and the Laying on of Hands: An Image

Over the past two years or so, I have read many accounts of women administering to those who were sick, weary or pregnant, but have not seen any artistic renderings of women participating in the laying on hands until today. [Read more…]

Mary and Judith: Images of Women in the Salt Lake Temple, 1915

In the December 1915 issue of The Relief Society Magazine, there is an interesting discussion of two portraits that were hanging in the Salt Lake Temple at the time. The author noted that, “Few Latter-day Saints realize that we possess several masterpieces, costly, rare and strikingly beautiful” [Read more…]

Earth Day: A Mormon Primer on Nature and the Environment

Looking to do a little LDS reading on Earth Day?  [Read more…]

Some content may not be suitable for children … parental discretion is advised

Several years ago, a kind-hearted non-member person in my family bought a Veggie Tales video to keep at their house for when we came to visit on Sundays. While I know many people are fans of this video series, I am not. And although I deeply appreciated my relative’s kind gesture, this particular episode did little to increase my veggie love. An adaptation of the story of David and Bathsheba, King George and the Ducky can be summarized as such: [Read more…]

The Architecture of Polygamy

John W. Taylor once remarked, “Salt Lake City is a curious place.  It’s the only town I know where a man can get off the streetcar, head in any direction he chooses, and end up at home.”  So begins Thomas Carter’s fascinating article on nineteenth century polygamous housing in Utah.(1)  [Read more…]


Nine months.  No teeth.

Refuses solid food, yet reaches out a tiny hand for bread. [Read more…]

A Gift Taken or Abandoned?

In discussing women and healing in the early church, one of the most commonly asked questions seems to be, “How could this have happened? Why did things change?” [Read more…]

Relief Society? Who Cares?!

When Barbara Bradshaw Smith was called to be the General Relief Society President on October 3, 1974, the Tabernacle was filled to capacity. President N. Eldon Tanner paid special tribute to Belle S. Spafford whose presidency had lasted 29 years. She had served under 6 different Presidents of the Church. Many women who were present that day had never had a different General Relief Society President. When President Kimball announced at the last session of the two-day conference that Sister Spafford was being released, gasps could be heard throughout the building. The murmured exclamations of “Oh, no!” were clearly heard by Sister Smith who was sitting with other general board members. When she came to the podium, her voice trembled and she declared,

“When you said ‘Oh, no’, so did I. I have sat in this audience many times; when the conference was over, I have thanked my Heavenly Father that Sister Spafford was still our general president. And when President Kimball came to my home and called me to be the general president of Relief Society, I couldn’t believe it could happen to me.” (Women of Covenant, p. 347)

While Barbara Smith may have felt overwhelmed by the reaction to her new calling, at least she got one. [Read more…]

50 Minutes: An Introduction to Mormon Women’s History

Just recently I was asked to do a fifty minute presentation on LDS Women’s History at an upcoming Relief Society Enrichment Day. [Read more…]

The Space In-Between

One hundred and fifty eight years ago today Joseph Hovey recorded in his journal that Presendia Kimball had laid her hands upon his head and blessed him. She spoke the following words, [Read more…]

Sunday Morning Maternity Leave and the Church of the Lastborn

In The Poisonwood Bible Barbara Kingsolver writes:

A mother’s body remembers her babies — the folds of soft flesh, the softly furred scalp against her nose. Each child has its own entreaties to body and soul. It’s the last one, though, that overtakes you. … A first child is your own best foot forward, and how you do cheer those little feet as they strike out. You examine every turn of flesh for precocity, and crow it to the world.

But the last one: the baby who trails her scent like a flag of surrender through your life when there will be no more coming after — oh, that’s love by a different name. She is the babe you hold in your arms for an hour after she’s gone to sleep. If you put her down in the crib, she might wake up changed and fly away. So instead you rock by the window, drinking the light from her skin, breathing her exhaled dreams. Your heart bays to the double crescent moons of closed lashes on her cheeks. She is the one you can’t put down.

[Read more…]

“Nourished and Healed by Prayer and Other Exercises of Belief”

This morning I was filling out an Obstetrical Pre-Admission Form, in case I decide or need to go to the hospital for the upcoming birth of our fifth child. It contained all the usual questions: next of kin, family doctor, referring midwife, etc. The one that gave me pause was, “Do you wish your religion listed on your chart?” I have only been a patient in the hospital twice before, and traditionally my response has been, “No, this is none of your business!” [Read more…]

Shopocalypse Now: Mormons and Buy Nothing Day?

A year ago, on the day after American Thanksgiving, I found myself in an English-style restaurant sharing a meal with a group of bloggers. After a lunch of deep-fried fish, potatoes, macaroni (?!!) and yes, one chocolate bar shared among many, we split up for the afternoon. Steve and Ronan went home to male-bond over some movies and Kristine and Elisabeth went to the Whitney Museum. Me? I was on walkabout. With a route planned out by Sumer that would take me from Chinatown to the Upper West Side, I was ready to experience Manhattan. But it soon became clear that small-town Canadian girl did not understand the culture. Why all the crazed shoppers? At home, the day after Thanksgiving was for lounging around and eating leftovers. It is a holiday and all the stores are closed. And what were all the signs for Black Friday about? Did it mean that everything black in the store was on sale? [Read more…]

Did God Protect Me, Or What Should I Tell My Kids Tonight?

If I had died this morning, the events leading up to my death would be unremarkable. I made breakfast and lunches, kissed my husband good-bye, got annoyed at the kid who left his rain boots at school and tried to wear his sister’s boots which are three sizes to small. I took kids to school, came home, did dishes, read blogs and then changed hurriedly to make a 10:00 a.m. appointment. I drove south on Highway 6, listening to The Current, thinking about my appointment and wondering what I should make for dinner for the two missionaries and investigator family that are coming for dinner tonight. Seconds later, my life flashed before my eyes. [Read more…]

Is there work that is unworthy of me?

Jonathan’s post got me thinking about housework again.

My family has a heritage of domestic help. My great-grandmother had nannies, and servants. However, she loved to cook and was apparently very good at it. Her kitchen was equipped with a special sink with a cover, where she could put vegetable peelings and dirty dishes to await a servant who would come along after she was finished and clean up the mess. My grandmother had a cleaning lady and so did my Mom. In fact, I never really learned how to clean house while living in my parent’s home — I was only taught how to prepare for the cleaning lady to come. Things had to be removed off your dresser so the cleaning lady could dust, and under your bed had to be tidy so the cleaning lady could vacuum. This was not very demanding work. The cleaning lady seemed nice but quiet — she was from Yugoslavia and spoke a small amount of English.

I am breaking with my family tradition of having household help, and not simply because of budgetary constraints. [Read more…]

Being Where I Didn’t Want to Be

“So, how long are you going to be away for?”, he enquires.

“I think I’ll leave Thursday afternoon and come back Monday morning. I don’t want to be rushed.” I pull out the calendar. “Hmmm …. on second thought, maybe not.” I backpedal. [Read more…]

“Sisters, we have lost a Mother”: The Decline and Death of Zina D.H. Young

The hallway that leads to the women’s change room in the Salt Lake Temple is lined with photographs of women who have served in general Relief Society presidencies. The last photo on the right hand side is a portrait of Zina D.H. Young. When I was there last, I spent a long time gazing into her dark eyes, trying to imagine what she experienced. Today is the 105th anniversary her death. [Read more…]

Anointing Motherhood: A glimpse

In May of 1926, Anna Lewis Evans was washed and anointed in preparation for her upcoming birth. This was the first documented time that she would receive this blessing from women in the 31st Ward, Park Stake. She would go on to experience this sacred ritual another five times — on September 13, 1927, January 9, 1930, July 12, 1931, January 16, 1936 and finally an unspecified date in 1937. [Read more…]

Embracing the Thrill of the Chase

Several years ago, I lived on a street with a most interesting religious configuration. Three houses in a row — a minister from a conservative church with his wife and eight children — Abel, Esther, Lydia, Hannah, David, Daniel, Rebekah and Miriam. Their neighbour was a retired pastor of 30 years from another denomination, who now served a large geographical area assisting in mediation between pastors and their congregations. He and his wife had three grown children. And finally there was us: a Mormon bishop, his wife and their three little pre-school boys. Our commonalities as much as our differences, held us together, forming a somewhat tenuous community of believers who were trying in their own ways to follow the teachings of Jesus.

During those years on Burton Road, one of my favourite things to do was to watch the school age children, who lived two doors down, arrive home from school. The bus stop was around the corner and like clockwork at quarter to four, here they would come. The oldest boy, confident and aloof, striding ahead. Esther, Lydia and Hannah came next, laughing and talking and finally David and Daniel, bringing up the rear, stopping to look at bugs on the sidewalk or pausing to pick up a dropped lunch box or books. If I was outside with my own boys, I would somehow, occasionally, be swept along to their house for an after-school snack and visit. I have pleasant memories of sitting around the kitchen table — more often then not, their home was a happy confusion of children, music and chatter. Their mother was meant to be the nurturer of a large brood — she mothered with grace and enthusiasm. I marveled at her as she took them on bicycle rides and canoe trips, helped with flute and piano practice and deftly handled their misbehaviour. She became a good friend and trusted advisor.

Which is why I was so shocked and unprepared, the day she decided to attack. [Read more…]

Are Mormon Men and Boys “Musically Disenfranchised?”

“Maybe, we can get the missionaries to sing.”

This seems to be the perennial solution to the shortage of men who participate in the ward choir. [Read more…]

At the Gates of the Priesthood: On Watching a Boy Turn Twelve

Jacob can run a mile in under six minutes. He can easily eat a half dozen pieces of pizza in a sitting. His pants are getting too short again. The writing is on the wall — he is growing up. Perhaps nothing underscores this reality more than the fact that he turned twelve this weekend. [Read more…]

An Eye For an I: Looking at the Personal Essay in Mormon Literature

Last year, the New York Times ran an article entitled, “We All Have A Life. Must We All Write About It?” Personal writing has always had its critics and many have refused to consider it as a serious literary form. E.B. White, remarked that, “The essayist must be content in his self-imposed role of second class citizen … a writer who has his sights trained on the Nobel Prize or other earthly triumphs, had best write a novel, poem or play.” Despite these perceived limitations, personal essays, particularly Mormon ones as of late, continue to occupy a favoured place upon my bedside table. [Read more…]