Daughters in My Kingdom

8.19.2012

A few months ago, I did something I thought I’d never do:

I read, “Daughters in My Kingdom” cover to cover.

It’s a short history of The Relief Society, a snapshot of women in the organization from every time period from its founding until now.

It was shockingly game-changing for me.

I’ve often struggled to find my place within the organization. I’ve felt — as many women do — that my interests and worldview were somewhere without the narrow walls its culture sometimes created. When I opened the book, I fully expected whatever I found on its pages to reinforce that unintentional exclusionist tradition. But what I found was far from it.

I found a rich and beautiful history of a sisterhood of progressive women, bound together to alter the world with tenacity and self-sacrifice.

I found an organization I was proud to be a part of.

And I found a church in which women were a more robust part of leadership roles, Sunday services and humanitarian efforts, where they were empowered — in ways that have long been forgotten — to go out into the world and change it.

And I wondered how we got here — a place so subtly behind the progressive place we started.

And I wondered how I got here — to my ripe mid-twenties — without knowing what I’ve always indistinctly felt: that something is off, but it doesn’t have to be.

I read this article a few days ago and have been thinking about it nonstop since.

I am part of the trend it describes. I’m not angry or frustrated. I’m not looking for a fight. But I am somewhere in the middle of this newly revived discussion — at peace with the role the gospel, as I understand it, defines for me, yet unsettled by the void I feel in our organizational church and community culture where women’s voices should be.

What do you think?

 Listening to: Some serious San Antonio thunder.

Photo: Instagram of me and Monica tonight, waiting for the Brian Regan show to start. Trent corrected me when I called it a Brian Regan “concert.” (“Um, he’s not a musician.”) I think he was just jealous. 🙂

P.S. I finally finished one of my many summer projects. It was published yesterday in the Deseret News National Edition. Read it online here.

 

12 comments :

  • Carly Sessions

    I sure love your voice Sam! I still haven’t read Daughters In My Kingdom because I had some of the same fears you had. Apparently I need to open it up. I’m sure you read the FAIR article as well? I do think the issue is a bit regional. Have you noticed any differences in your ward in GA?

    • Samantha Murphey

      Hey Carly! I have noticed differences in my ward in Georgia. I think the more obvious the diversity in the Relief Society, the more ward leaders naturally embrace it. I think that diversity in the church is definitely regional, but I also think there’s a generational gap that causes some of the problem. Women raised in different eras have different ideas about what their roles should be. That being said, having a variety of ages unified in one group is also part of what makes Relief Society so great. I’m sure your ward in DC is much different from our ward in Provo, in good ways and bad. What has your experience been like there?

  • Megan Geilman

    I’m posting the same comment I made on facebook, in order to keep the conversation going and I’m really interested in pinning down some things we as women in the church can do to limit this feeling of marginalization and live up to our spiritual potential.

    I really appreciated this (and it was an answer to what I should focus my study on next…) I really appreciated this line from the article: “Atkinson argues that LDS women are not taking advantage of powers they already possess. Mormon women need to “step forward and embrace these gifts of the spirit, acknowledge the value of what they are already doing, and ask more of themselves,” Atkinson says. Then the outside world “will take notice of their articulateness, skills and worth. It won’t be because a policy or a program changed to bestow that power on them.” I completely agree. I have no desires for ordination and feel that “equality” in that direction is apostate and for worldly pride anyway, but I DO feel that women in the church (myself included) are living far below our spiritual powers that WOULD make us feel equal…and I also find it ironic that these women who do wish for instituted hierarchal equality are demanding permission from the general authorities (of men). I’ve always felt comfortable (much to my father’s chagrin) of considering myself a feminist of the church. There ARE doctrinal things I struggle with concerning gender roles in the church (men having priesthood not being one of them, although I did struggle with that when I was younger) but I’m glad that so far, I’ve been humble enough to admit I don’t understand everything and that if continue searching that those answers will be revealed to me. Thank you for speaking up, I do think there are many more “feminists” in the church that do not seek priesthood authority but do feel a cultural marginalization–keep the conversation going!

    • Samantha Murphey

      Megan! I adore you, dear. I hadn’t really thought about that line from the article, much when I read it, but I’m glad you pointed it out. I think women do need to take it upon themselves to make the changes they want to see, rather than just complain.

      I think one of the best things we can do to make those changes is to do exactly what we’re doing — talk about our feelings and concerns. I know this is just one of many examples of the cultural marginalization of women in the church, but I find that women in our generation have grown up with pressure to become mothers quickly on one side and pressure to have a career on the other. Women who became mothers at a young age feel defensive about not having a career, and women who pursued a career in some way feel defensive about not becoming a mother right away. I think that the defensiveness on both sides is worse in our generation than in any other. If we all just start being open, we’d all become more accepting of each other’s choices and more at peace with our own.

  • Alicia

    I found that article really interesting too. Bryce and I sat and talked about it for a long time after we read it, bouncing around ideas. I have so many thoughts about it and yet…not really any conclusions. What you wrote in your post here best describes how I feel:

    ” I’m not angry or frustrated. I’m not looking for a fight. But I am somewhere in the middle of this newly revived discussion…”

    But I can’t decide where I think the changes should or should not be. As I read the article, some of the ideas I liked more than others, but none of them stood out as the clear change the church needs to make (in my own opinion). So, like so many of my questions and/or concerns about the church, it’s one of those things that I will have to keep thinking, asking questions and praying about and keep making my friends and family discuss it with me, so I can figure out what I think (looking at you Sam).

    I need to call you…to talk to you about this and other things. This week the phone call is happening (whenever you get back from hanging out with Mon).

    • Samantha Murphey

      Yes! Call me soon. And I really am obsessed with your aunt. Peggy Fletcher Stack, journalism idol.

  • Kristy Ashworth Pack

    Sam,
    Thank you so much for bringing this article and discussion to light. I have a very strong testimony of the Church, but., like you, I have some issues with the culture of the Church surrounding women. I’ve always tried to remember that when dealing with the Church you need to be able to separate the doctrine, the people, the culture, and the organization. A lot of the challenges that women are facing in the Church today are cultural and deal with the organization and the people, not the actual doctrine. The more I learn about what the Gospel teaches, the more I understand about how much God values women. I look forward to the culture, organization and people of the Church evolving into more alignment with the actual doctrine concerning women. Thank you for speaking up.

    • Samantha Murphey

      Thanks, Kristy! I’ve always admired you as a woman who speaks her mind. I’m happy to hear your thoughts.

  • Ruby

    Seeing you two together reminds me of all the camps and dances we shared. Good times!

  • Carrie

    You have totally described a part of what I feel about Relief Society! I don’t understand how we got here from the awesome and inspiring beginning of the Relief Society. We should be providing relief… serving…. yet we sit and do nothing but serve ourselves. That is a very critical observation, but I’m certain Emma and Joseph Smith wished, planned, envisioned more for this body of women than what we currently are/do.

    • Samantha Murphey

      I’m with you Carrie, and I think we need to take it upon ourselves to make the changes we want to see, mostly by speaking up and being honest about what we’re feeling.

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