Is It The End of The World? Wait, Its Just Isaiah. (2 Nephi 11-25)

Monday, February 17, 2020

We are so excited to share this episode with you! This week we will discuss the bulk of the Isaiah chapters in second Nephi. We'll be focusing our conversation on a handful of verses and asking questions like "What do we do when the text doesn't speak to us?" and "How do we really feel about the haughty Daughters of Zion?" We also discuss apocalyptic thought and Elise and Channing share a lil'bit of our feminist awakening. This is a rich and vibrant discussion and we are quite proud of this episode. We can't wait for you to listen!

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Scriptures mentioned in this episode:
  • 2 Nephi 13: 16-24
  • 2 Nephi 16: 11

Transcribed by Maddie Daetwyler of @lightenprint

C: Hi, I'm Channing.

E: And I'm Elise. 

C: And this is The Faithful Feminists podcast. We saved you a seat on the soft chairs. So join us today for a conversation about Second Nephi chapters 11 through 25 for February 17th through the 23rd. We're so glad you're here.

E: Welcome back. We're glad to have you here, and we have so many chapters to discuss this week, and all of them are Isaiah, which makes it really difficult because Channing and I are not historians. That’s not our background, nor is it something that we are super drawn to, and we know the Isaiah is really hard. And even for us, as we were preparing for the podcast episode, we had to revisit and rework and reread again and again, and look for other resources, and it takes time to understand all of Isaiah. And even when you're done reading, on the third or fourth read, you still might not understand everything. And that's okay. 

C: Absolutely. And in the Come Follow Me manual actually, there's a paragraph that I super love. It's one of the first ones that says, “Nephi acknowledges that for some, the words of Isaiah are not plain.” Honestly, I don't think Nephi has ever spoken truer words. It goes on to say, “This can certainly be true for those who aren't familiar with ancient Jewish culture and geography, like Nephi was.” So luckily for Nephi, he had the benefit of actually living there and living then. So he does know very intimately all of the things that Isaiah was talking about, but I didn't live then. And neither did Elise. And honestly, we could spend an entire episode talking about all of the background of Isaiah, all of the poetic structure in his writings, and all of that's really fascinating, but I am not an expert. So instead what we'll do is we'll link in the show notes a bunch of different resources for those of you who want to understand Isaiah a little bit better. And then we'll just go ahead and continue on in this episode with the things that stuck out most to Elise and I, so that we can bring something a little bit different to the conversation.

E: One of the questions that Channing and I kept asking ourselves when we were looking through these chapters is “Okay, what do we do when a text doesn't speak to us, when we are feeling no connection, nothing standing out to us, not on the first, nor on the second read?” And so this is an idea that we've been playing with. And two ideas came to mind. The first idea that came to mind was a passage from Phyllis Trible’s book called Texts of Terror. And it says, “Look, if a text doesn't speak to you or if it hurts you, wrestle with it until it gives you a blessing.” And this line comes exactly from the story of Jacob, where Jacob meets an angel on the riverbank or something. And Jacob says, “No, I'm not letting you go. Even if you hurt me until you give me a blessing, until you give me something to move forward with in a positive way.”

C: I think going along with that, we talk about taking back the text or reclaiming it. And sometimes this can look like maybe looking at the stories that are told in the text and offering a retelling or reworking some of the language or the stories or the imagery that we find here. And I know that this idea can seem scary, especially for those of us who are new or unfamiliar with the practice of reworking or retelling some of the scriptural texts, but one person that I love who does an excellent job of reworking or retelling stories is Heather Farrell. She does a lot of work with women in the scriptures and a lot of what she does is literally offering retellings of women's stories in the scriptures. And so not necessarily based off her work, but kind of inspired by her work, we'll go ahead and try and do that today. And I just encourage you to keep an open mind and maybe practice your own retellings. Maybe what we share with you here today doesn't necessarily resonate with you. But that definitely doesn't mean that it's the only way, the only retelling, nor the only right way or the only right retelling. So if it doesn't work for you today, that's okay. We just offer it to you with all of our love and we encourage you to take what works for you and leave what doesn't.

E: And just like Channing said, it can feel difficult to try and reinterpret or re-understand words in the scriptures, particularly because our whole church is built up on the scriptures being the word of God. And I would challenge you to think that there are many ways that the word of God can speak to us, and they can be reinterpreted and it doesn't mean that they're any less true. If we're trying to wrestle with it or reclaim it in a way that is positive and helpful and brings meaning to our life, in order for the scriptures to be living scriptures or the living word of God, we have to challenge it and allow it to challenge us. And so we have three points that we're going to try and talk about today. We're going to talk about the daughters of Zion, we'll address some apocalypse or apocalyptic thinking, and then finish with some personal experiences of what it means to be Mormon and feminist in today's day. 

E: So to start out, we're going to start by talking about the daughters of Zion, and they show up in chapter 13, verses 16 through 24. And these are the iconic verses that talk about these haughty daughters of Zion. And one thing that we found comforting here is to think that, look, these passages, even though they are incredibly patriarchal and misogynistic, it doesn't necessarily tell us as much about God as it does about a specific perspective in ancient culture of ancient men and women. But unfortunately, and sadly, that same perspective can also easily translate today's day in time, but it helps us remember that these are real people experiencing real things in a specific historical moment. When we were preparing for this episode, we gather our notes and Channing has a bit of a diary entry that she is going to share with us today.

C: Yeah. When I sat down to write this outline, I wasn't planning on essentially writing so much, but it just kind of all came out, all my feelings. That's how I work. I'm a feelings person. So when I came across these verses in Isaiah, well, technically Second Nephi, my feelings are pretty visceral, they're right on my sleeve. And so when I first read these verses, I was mad, and I even wrote on the outline, “Oh, I'm just so mad.” I'm going to have to come back to these in a couple of days. And then when I did come back to them, I was still mad. And I think one of the things that angers me and bothers me so much about these passages is that this particular set of scriptures quickly reveals itself in the text as explicitly male. And I think the common attitude toward prophets, both scriptural/ancient prophets and modern prophets today, a lot of times we have a lot of reverence and respect for them. But I think along with that, a healthy dose of skepticism is required, especially for women who are reading the scriptures or even General Conference talks. This reminded me of a quote from, I don't speak French, Elise is the French one, so if I totally butcher this, she'll correct me. Francois Poullain de la Barre, he is a 17th century Parisian theology scholar and Catholic priest, and he said, “Everything men say about women should be suspect because they are both judges and litigants.” And so what this really means is that men, privileged because they benefit from patriarchal systems of oppression, have both the power to pass judgment, and also to dole out punishment. So if you think about this, there is not really any equality in that. And there's definitely no checks and balances for justice when this is enacted by a group that doesn't suffer from either judgment or from punishment. And so, I think taking that particular perspective to the scriptures can sometimes be really helpful, especially for women. So taking this lens or this way of looking at scripture, for me, one of the thoughts that came to me was that first, the society that the daughters of Zion live in, but also the society that we even live in today, disempowers women by subordinating them to men. And so this is accomplished by removing them of all purposes, save one, higher and holier than others, and this is wife and motherhood. 

E: Yeah. Can I jump in really quickly? I feel like this is not a new conversation that we're having. I feel like there actually is a lot of chat and chatter about pressures that we're feeling from the church to be mothers and to have children. And that this really is the fulfillment of our entire life experience. And I think women are starting to more openly say, “No, I don't feel this way. Perhaps being a mother is one aspect of who I am, but it is not all of me. And nor is it my holiest calling.” Some people may feel like it is, but to just make a huge blanket statement and say, and have the church say, this is what it means to be a woman, and to be a woman means to be a mother. I think that that's really dismissive of everyone's experience, and it limits us to specific gender roles, right? That women are nurturers and they're the ones that have children. And therefore we are relegated to a certain position in society, AKA, being in the home with the children. 

C: Right. You know what that reminds me of actually? Elise, remember that one time we were watching women's conference together just over at someone's house, in our ward. And this must have been in what, April 2018 or something. And the talks were specifically focused on women and motherhood. And I just remember peeking over at your journal just to see what you were writing. And on one side you had “Womanhood,” and then on the other side you had “Motherhood,” and then in between the two words was just a bunch of black scribbles, to really just kind of imply it's messy. It's not so easy to just separate those two things into two categories, and they're not necessarily, you know, connected with a single clean line. And so when I think about that idea of womanhood equals motherhood, that they're two things that are interchangeable or exactly the same, I always think of your journal entry. I feel like it's such an excellent way to demonstrate exactly what you just said. 

E: Thank you for sharing that. I didn't know that you had remembered that from so long ago, but I remember sitting there listening to that talk and just feeling so upset because the takeaway was the family's at risk because women aren't having as many children as they have in the past. So women, you need to start showing up and birthing kids because this is what you're called to do. And it's the only thing you're called to do. And it's so upsetting. 

C: Oh, absolutely. And so continuing on with some of the ideas that link back to the scriptures. In society, both in the daughters of Zion texts, and even now, too, an ordinary woman really has no other way, especially here in the text, to bring herself honor, then to attach herself to a man. And you know, the only way to do that is by getting married. So what really makes me upset about this text is, what pasttimes are allowed to women who can't receive sacred texts, who can participate only very limited public religious worship -- there's really not a whole lot left, especially when a woman's greatest value is placed on her body, and what it looks like, and what it can offer. And so I think it makes sense then that women who are disempowered and cut off from their own authority, from their own honor and value, would then seek to empower themselves by any means available. And so that's mostly often by marriage, especially in the texts. And so I think we can look at the daughters’ of Zion adornments, if you look at the verses they talk about bracelets and anklets and bonnets and crisping pins and earrings and nose jewels and all of the stuff, anyway, I think we can look at these adornments in one of two ways. The first is that these adornments are attempts to garner men's attention. And seduce them not to sexual sin necessarily, but I think to marriage, or secondly, that adorning oneself would become a natural pastime for women who are disempowered in almost every other way, except for the beauty and value of their body. So, to then read this text and have the perspective of a woman, to hear a man with prophetic power and authority to then shame these women's attempts to alleviate themselves of the shame of not having a husband, I think is really misogynistic. Misogyny can kind of seem like an unfamiliar word. And it was for me when I first came across it, too. So just to clarify really quick, misogyny means that there is a strong prejudice against women. 

E: Yeah. And to add to that too, misogyny also rewards women who reinforce the status quo and then punishes women who don't reinforce the status quo. 

C: Absolutely. So, going forward, I actually think that chapter 14, verse 1 is also kind of supposed to go in this chapter, just because it's the only one that sticks out from the rest of its own chapter as a sore thumb. But it does go further in this humiliation and shaming. It says, “In the day when so many of Zion's men are destroyed (because these women wore anklets) that women outnumber men 7 to 1.” So the text says, “7 women shall take hold of one man saying, We will eat our own bread and wear our own apparel. Only let us be called by thy name to take away our reproach.” So what essentially they're saying is, there won't be enough men to go around, but the shaming status of an unmarried woman is still going to be present, that these women are going to be absolutely desperate to get married, at whatever cost. So even when their nation has reached almost a complete annihilation, these daughters are so desperate to be rid of their shame and stigma that they're willing to release these potential husbands from the only rights that would normally be afforded to them as wives, which are to be fed and clothed. And personally, to me, sounds like a man's dream, especially in ancient time. You get all the benefits of being married, but you don't have to legally put anything in it because you've just been released from all of your responsibility. And so, kind of taking Nephi’s treatise to liken these scriptures unto myself, I couldn't help but wonder, you know, in my own understanding, with my own lived experience as a woman in the LDS church, how much of this shame of being unmarried or this shame of adorning myself or focusing on my physical beauty, you know, how much of that is still manipulated  doctrinally and culturally within the LDS church.

E: One of the things that comes to mind for me is the pressure to have children. So I'm married, but we don't have any children by choice, but we're kind of a… we stick out. We are different. And I think in the church that makes people feel uncomfortable because they don't know what to do with us, or how to talk to us. Especially, I feel like there's a kind of barrier between myself and other women who do have children, because we don't necessarily at first glance seem to have anything in common, but this isn't true, right? You and I became such best friends and we have totally different lives. And so it's not just children that can define the relationship. But I think the church tries to say that children do define the woman. And so without children, what are you doing here? 

C: Yeah. And I mean, I even remember first meeting you when you were my visiting teacher and you were like, I don't have any kids because I'm doing school. And I was like, that's amazing. And so great. And honest to goodness, part of me was like, and someday she'll have kids. And that was our first meeting before I knew you any better. And I think that that just kind of demonstrates just the cultural assumption that, “Oh yeah, someday, you know, when she's done doing all of the things that she thinks are important right now, that she's going to have children later on.” And I mean, now that I know you better, and now that I'm kind of living under a different, I don't know, set of beliefs, or I understand even my own role as a mother a little bit better, that's not necessarily how it works, and children may or may not be, depending on the woman, the most important thing. I hope to dear Lord that my children don't ever listen to this podcast, but they are not the most important thing to me. I love them dearly. I would give anything for them, and I do take really good care of them. I'm a dang good mom. But if I think about what is the most important thing to me, they honestly, probably don't make the top three. They definitely make the top five, but they don't make the top three. And so, please don't @ me on that. I just can't even have that conversation, but I just, I mean, it goes back to that whole womanhood, motherhood, scribbles in between, I just… It's a mess and I think it's wrong. I definitely think that that is a cultural assumption and stigma for women that is so prevalent today. And I think mother or not, everyone has an experience with that. And every experience is valid. 

E: Another thing that comes to mind, and I think the way that these verses get used most frequently, particularly in Young Women’s lessons, is to talk about modesty.

C: I remember being a young woman and, I don't remember if it was the Bishop or the Bishopric, or even my Young Women's leaders, but I remember there being a conversation about how we need to dress appropriately for church and mutual, and not coming in like -- Oh, actually, now that I think about it, you know what it was? So there used to be a tradition. I don't know if it was the thing in Utah or a thing in Phoenix, Elise, but in Las Vegas, where I grew up, it was very customary for the Sunday after prom for all of the young women who went to prom that week to wear their prom dresses to church. I remember being a young woman who, I was a beehive, so I hadn’t been to prom yet, but the church leaders came in and said, “Sorry, we're putting an end to this practice,” and specifically quoted these daughters of Zion verses to say, it's not appropriate, it's not okay, we need to be modest, and modest also means not wearing finery and not being so fancy in church because it's just not the time or the place. And then, you know, people stopped doing that. It stopped becoming a thing and no one does that anymore. But that modesty thing is still there. I even remember a couple of years ago, in The Friend magazine that the church publishes, there was an article on modesty and there was a little bit of an uproar because pictured, the two drawings that were side by side in this article about modesty, on one side there was a girl who was wearing a floor length skirt, a white t-shirt, her young women's medallion, or just a necklace that had a picture of a temple on it, and she was wearing a headband, and penny loafer shoes. And she was holding a Book of Mormon. Right? And so this was the picture of modesty that was given to all the readers of The Friend magazine. And then the other side of that, the other drawing that was also pictured, was a girl of the same age, same skin color, but her hair was brown and it was tucked up in an up do or a bun or something. And she was wearing a skirt that, maybe it wasn't necessarily shorter than her knees, but it definitely wasn't a floor length skirt, and she was wearing heels and she was carrying a purse, not scriptures. And the implication was that even though you can be modest, your clothing can cover all of the parts that the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet says that it should cover, there is still a way for some people to be more modest, as if there was a minimum standard of modesty. Right? And so even just taking those two examples, modesty and daughters of Zion, they're still quite connected, I feel like, in LDS culture.

E: Absolutely. And one of the things that would always irritate me, so in my previous ward I was the Young Women's president, and now in the French branch I'm also the Young Women's president, and the girls that we see in the French branch are so different from the girls that I saw in my home ward, and modesty to me, in both wards or both situations, modesty is the thing I cared the least about. As the Young Women's president, I don't ever want to teach a lesson about modesty because I don't personally think that it's a big deal, because if we look to Jesus, Jesus is looking for the people who are suffering and who need help and who are the outcasts. And oftentimes, girls and women who are dressed immodestly are the ones who get pushed aside. So you have that whole rhetoric, but then you also have that sing-song “modest is hottest,” which is so terrible because it doubly binds us. It says, you have to be modest by covering yourself up. But you also have to be concerned with looking at attractive, because that's the thing that's most important. And if you want to be hot and you want to be attractive, then be modest. 

C: Right. Oh I just hate that phrase. Every time I hear it, it’s disgusting because it's all about how men perceive women's bodies. Right? So be hot, but don't be too hot, be sexy, but not too sexy because we don't want you to turn into a temptation for us. And so, yeah. I mean, it's there. 

E: And modesty culture hurts everyone. It also hurts the other classes of young men, because it says, young men, you have such uninhibited desires that you absolutely could not control yourself. You're just a sexual beast. And if you see someone's shoulder, you'll just absolutely lose it. And it's also disrespectful to men because it says that they are nothing more than this unrestrained sexual being, who can't control what's going on. 

C: Right. And so, just as women are so much more than their bodies, men and young men are so much more than their bodies, too. And we need to create and use language that allows men and young men to take responsibility for their actions and attitudes towards women. Doesn’t matter if they're modest or not, because men are actually and acutely capable of controlling their own urges and thoughts and emotions. And it's not purely the woman or the young woman's responsibility to, you know, keep them in check. And so I know it can kind of seem like, especially for those of us who maybe have a more conservative reading of this text, some of us might think, “Okay, all of this talk about modesty and shaming women and blah, blah, blah, that's a pretty far stretch from just these daughters of Zion verses, so what's the big deal? Why even bring attention to these verses? Why even spend time here? Because honestly, it's just a set of, what, 10 verses in a book of scripture that nobody really understands anyway. So, I mean, it's a genuine question. What's the big deal? Why should we focus on this? 

E: Hmm. And in response to that, Channing found a really great quote from Audre Lorde's piece called The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action. And we just wanted to read that for you. It says, “I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, must be made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood. The visibility which makes most of us vulnerable is that which also is the source of our greatest strength, because the machine will try to grind you into dust anyway, whether or not we speak. What are the words you do not have yet? What do you need to say? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day in attempt to make your own until you sicken and die from them, still in silence. We can sit in our corners, mute forever, while our sisters and ourselves are wasted, and we will still be no less afraid. My silences have not protected me. Your silence will not protect you.” I just cannot get enough of this quote because it's so perfect. Right? It just says, whether or not you speak up, there is still a system at play here that's going to try and grind you down, who's going to try and give you the most hurtful, traditional reading of this text. So you might as well speak up, and actually you're called to speak up because by not speaking up, you are not protected. By moving along in the system, it doesn't save anyone. It doesn't help anyone. So use the power that you have, whether you're teaching the lesson or having a conversation with your ward members or your partner or your friends. If these things speak to you or leave you feeling unsettled, use your voice and speak up. 

C: Every time I read this, it just makes me want to cry because I think about all of the times in my life that I've felt like I have to just listen and just take it and just twiddle my thumbs and look at my feet hanging down from a chair in church while I listened to a lesson about modesty or chastity or motherhood or whatever. And there have been times where I've just walked out of lessons in church because I've thought, I can't take this anymore. It hurts me so much. And yet, I'm still so afraid to use my voice and to say, hang on a second. This isn't working for me. Because that takes courage. And, quite frankly, I don't always have it. And so sometimes if I need to find my voice, I just come back to freaking goddess Audre Lorde. And she just reminds me, your silence will not protect you. And it just reminds me, you know what, I'm a woman. So what? God put a mouth on this woman, God put a mind on this woman. I can use it. And so the voice is what allows us to reclaim and rework these hurtful stories, this hurtful imagery, and rework it into something that is empowering and that actually is helpful to us instead of continuing on with traditional interpretations of the texts that shame and subordinate women. 

E: Even as you can see from our discussion that we've had here and now, there's so much that you can pull from these verses, but it's because you offer it a different reading, it's because you reinterpret it with new experience and new lenses, that's the thing that brings it to life. So sure, you can sit in a lesson or you can read the scriptures and read this and say, okay, this is teaching me about modesty and that we all need to be modest, and then you can move on. Or, you could challenge it and say, what's going on here? What is striking me in ways that are uncomfortable and why? And then follow that train all the way down to the end and see what you find. 

C: And I think another portion that's essential when we're talking about reclaiming our power, reworking the text, is this isn't something that's done alone. That quote that we shared from Audre Lorde actually came from a speech that she gave to a group of women writers. And she talked about not being afraid to use your voice. Not to just speak out against the injustices that, you know, affect all of us, but also to share them in community so that we can find the goodness in others, and find support in others. And so I think one re-interpretation, or one reworking of this daughters of Zion text is, Elise brought up a really good point that I am just in love with. She's like, what if we change this from daughters of Zion to sisters in Zion? And I just freaking love that. It’s so good. Why not take these scriptures and rework them, you practice using our voice, maybe even just in partnership with one woman or a group of women or, you know, women on a social media page, like the Q.Noor Sisterhood Facebook page, or even our Instagram page. There are places to practice using your voice so that we can change the rhetoric from daughters of Zion, to sisters in Zion, and make this more of a sisterhood. 

E: I think what the switch does, it allows us to witness the pain and suffering that the daughters of Zion face in these chapters and the ways that they've been stripped of all of their belongings, stripped of their honor, and brought really low. So it allows us to witness that suffering and then move forward in a sisterhood that says, we see you, we see you suffering, and we're not going to allow that to happen. So we're going to stand in solidarity with you. And that looks like sisters in Zion. 

C: Right. And I think along with that too, is the recognition, that someone else's suffering is our own. If we are really living our baptismal covenant to mourn with those that mourn and stand with those that stand in need of comfort, we recognize that all of us are interconnected and what empowers one woman, what liberates one woman, also liberates us. And so sisterhood is not just for those who are hurting in that moment. Sisterhood is for all of us, because it is only together that we rise. 

E: The second point that we wanted to talk about for this episode is how can we address these themes of destruction that come up in all of the chapters? Because the chapters are violent and they're dark, and they talk about the end of the world, and they talk about people being destroyed or people being saved. And Channing brought up a really great point, that this is in line with the apocalypse. This is apocalyptic thinking. And I was first introduced to, I guess it would be called the theory of apocalyptic thinking, by the author and theologian Rosemary Radford Ruether. And as I first read her work, a lot of the information that I'll be sharing with you today about apocalyptic thinking is coming from her book, Gaia and God: An Eco-Feminist Theology of Earth Healing. When I was first introduced to apocalyptic thought, I was like, oh my gosh, all of my anxiety and discomfort about, you know, the whole Second Coming talk really came full circle, and I felt like, “Now I understand why it just doesn't sit well with me at all.” So as I read these quotes just really quickly, I'd love for you to just try and listen to it without judgment. Do you possibly see anything familiar in these quotes? Are any of the ideas, any of the phrases, something that you've seen or heard before? So Rosemary Radford Ruether says,  “Apocalyptic thought is characterized by an us and them attitude, as absolute good against absolute evil, but this distinction should be defined in quite a different way. Good and evil need to be seen as different kinds of relationships, rather than different kinds of beings. There are those who will treat good and evil as though they were opposite substances, ultimately embodied in opposite cosmic principles, God and Satan. They imagine it is possible, through some combination of right belief and behavior, to align oneself absolutely on one side. It is believed that a specific group of people, or a particular religious group or elect nation, will be vindicated and victorious in their final victory of good over evil while their adversaries are punished and exterminated. Thus, the apocalypticist (that's a big word) far from being concerned about the evidences of destruction, is immensely cheered by them. Violence directed against others with whom they do not identify is evidence of divine punishment, while violence against themselves is persecution of the righteous. Both forms of violence are proofs that the last things are happening, and one's own deliverance is at hand. The apocalypticist may even oppose efforts to eliminate poverty, prevent war, or clean up ecological damage, for this is to oppose God's will and retard the final deliverance.” I can't talk, that quote always gets me.

E: Do you want to say why you're feeling the way that you're feeling? 

C: I think I just feel so sad because at least for me, I can see where I have participated in some of this thinking. A lot of time times I've sat in seminary classes where they've said, “Oh, don't worry. The righteous will be fine. And you know, if you're living righteously, then you don't really need to worry about the Second Coming.” You know? All while knowing inside that I've made mistakes and I've sinned before. And so, you know, really can I count myself among the righteous and really, should I worry about the Second Coming? And as my faith has kind of matured and grown from there to recognize that sometimes these ideas of absolute good and absolute evil have hurt people in my relationships or in my own speech; sometimes I've driven friends away and sometimes I've alienated people from myself because, you know, I thought I was part of the one true church, and it was just the one true church that was going to be saved. And even though at the time I felt like it was love to say, “Well, you need to do this. You need to come back to church, or you need to do X, Y, Z so that you can be saved at the Second Coming.” I seriously do have a lot of anxiety about it. I… it was hurting them. And now that I have been through that dark night of the soul, and been through some of those similar faith transitions, sometimes the same language hurts me, too. And then the last idea, where there are those who oppose efforts to eliminate poverty, prevent war, or cleanup ecological damage… I don't want to get too controversial here, but I feel like this happens today. There are those that say, “Oh, well, all of the wars happening in the Middle East are supposed to happen. It's a sign of the end of the times. And yet, what do we do about the suffering now? Nothing. What do we do about the bombings and the missiles that are hurting the earth and hurting people? We do nothing because we just chalk it up to signs of the times and Second Coming and, you know, all of that is fine. And well, when you're stuck in your safe American church building that has air conditioning and running water, but there are people hurting, and our language, you know, just our silence, really does not protect us either, because someday that can be us, and the commandment to love one another isn't a commandment for the future in the Second Coming. It's a commandment for right now. And so I get really angry and really hurt and sad just thinking about apocalypse and thinking about apocalyptic thought, because we tend to, as members of the church, to think that it's enough. To think that it's in a place that's far away, but not too far away, that it can't possibly happen soon, but it doesn't apply to us right here right now. And so we can continue to do nothing about it, and just wait until the time of action is upon us, when the truth is that the time of action is right now. 

E: That was so good. 

C: Thanks. I really was so sad.

E: Apocalyptic thinking is so scary because just like Channing said, it talks about a giant event that is going to destroy everyone and everything on a catastrophic scale. But I think what makes it hard about the scriptures is that it says the end of the world is coming and it's going to be absolutely unbearable for the people who are the wicked or the evil, right? Even in the song Follow the Prophet there's the line that says, “The wicked who fight against Zion will surely be smitten at last.” And we can sing that all day long, but if we stop and actually spend time imagining what it would mean for an entire people to be smitten and destroyed and grounded into dust, I mean that is violent, dangerous imagery to walk down. And just like Channing was saying, one of the dangers of the apocalypse or apocalyptic thinking is that it forces us into a future mindset, all the while ignoring the people who are here and now. So it turns us away from the ways that we can see the face of God in other people, in our neighbors right now. And it makes us selfish. It makes us hoard our resources and collect things that we think only belong to us, and turn other people away because we're preparing for the end of the world. 

C: Yep. And I didn't want to mention this, but the whole thought that I've been having this entire time is that, oh my gosh, followers, please don't hate me for saying, is that Washington Post article that was published back in the beginning of the year that says the church has a hundred billion dollars in reserve that came from tithing funds and the, I don't want to say justification, but the reasoning that the church has given for that is that they're saving it for the future, that they're saving it for Second Coming purposes. And, you know, this is just Gospel according to Channing, I want to make it super clear that if you believe that it's okay for the church to hold onto that money, I want you to know that that's okay. And it's okay for us to have different ideas, and I don't judge you or shame you or personally anything, it's okay. I'm married to a man who who feels that same way. And so I want you to know that I'm no way trying to say there is a right way or a wrong way, but in the lens of apocalyptic thinking, I can see the danger and I can see maybe the ill use of resources that could be put toward the pain and the hurting of the right now, instead of saving it for some future date that, you know, some people say it is coming in 60 years and some people say is coming forever and ever away. And so it's just a personal opinion. Please don't hate me forever. But yeah, that's just something that's come to mind as we've talked about it. 

E: Yeah. It's a good, and it's a relevant example, for sure. Another thing that comes to mind is that if we're always focused on the apocalypse or the end of the world or the Second Coming, or even on eternal life, we're looking for a God in the future. And then we miss all of the ways that God shows up for us right now, and calls us to show up for other people here and now, not in some second future. It just is so dismissive of this earth life and all of the joy and abundance and goodness that we have here, and all of the resources that we have here, and should be sharing with others, instead of hoarding or collecting it for some future time that is still unknown and is very uncertain.

C: With this in mind, everything that we've shared about apocalyptic today, we've done so in hopes that it makes it easier for you to identify apocalyptic rhetoric within the church and within the, the scriptures. But along with that, we didn't want to just leave you hanging like, Oh man, here's all the sad stuff. And it sucks. We also wanted to have just a quick conversation about what it looks like to push back against it. Now that we've identified what it looks like, we've identified what is hurtful about it, what do we do? How do we push back? 

E: I think that one of the things we've tried to do, at least in this episode, is look for the God of love instead of the God of anger, and watch out for ways that groups of people are othered or are framed in their entirety as completely evil, instead of recognizing that situations and people and history is way more complex than just that black and white. These are the good people. These are the evil people.

C: And I think too, along with that, you know, I tend to think of pushing back as being a very vocal and active thing. Oh, if I'm having a lesson about the Second Coming and I'm hearing language that others people, I, you know, as a social justice warrior, I don't really identify myself as that, but I'm sure that that's what some people think I am, I maybe have a responsibility to speak up and say something, and that's a good thing. And if you have the courage and strength that particular Sunday to do that, freaking use your voice like Audre Lorde said and do it, but I'll be honest with you, I am not in that place every day. I am not in that place every Sunday. I'm not always prepared. And so sometimes the way that I push back is a really kind of quiet rebellion. I just get up. I walk out of the classroom. I walk out of the church building. And in the parking lot of my particular meeting house, there's an entire line of trees that just kind of lines the driveway. And I just go out there and I sit. And I breathe in the fresh air and I listen to the bird singing and the leaves rustling around. And I just remember the earth that's here right now, this present moment right now, is the one that really matters. And just to kind of reground myself, and bring myself back to the present instead of getting wrapped up in, you know, imagery of the future and fear of the future. 

E: One thing that Channing and I always talk about is that there's not just one right way to be an activist or to advocate for other people or to advocate for yourself. And so just like Channing was saying, if you're not feeling incredibly brave or courageous or vocal, that's okay. What are other ways that you can still stand up? Not just for yourself, but for other people, in smaller quiet ways, even if that means that you revisit the text again in a different way and ask questions to yourself that allows your heart to be a little bit more open. I don't know if you do this too, but sometimes when I'm showering or when it's a dark moment, I just think of all of the things I should have said, and I can really amp myself up, but sometimes working through those scenarios is empowering because it helps you visualize what you would want to do or how you would want to respond in the future. And so, in some ways it allows you to practice being the activist or the advocate that you want to be. 

C: And also going back to the whole safe place, sisters and Zion thing, practice with a friend. Elise and I do this all the time. Sometimes she'll call me and she'll be like, “I'm so upset about this thing that happened. I wish that I had said this, did I do the right thing?” And we just talk each other through it. And it's not always Elise that calls me, in fact, I would say 90% of the time it's me who calls her, but we always end up working through it together. And so there's so many ways, just like Elise said, to be an activist, and they all look different and there's no one right way. And there's no one better way. Every  single step that we take toward liberation for our self and others is a step in the right direction, no matter how small. 

C: So taking what we've talked about with ideas and steps and ways of activism, small or big, I think it's a good lead into our final point. Elise found a really beautiful verse in chapter 16 that I think really addresses what it means to us, and really speaks to our experience of being both Mormon and feminist.

E: Yeah, chapter 16 starts with, this is when Isaiah sees the Lord, and the Lord is looking for someone to go on this task. But Isaiah doesn't know what the task is yet. And still Isaiah volunteers, even though he has no idea what it's going to entail. And then when the Lord tells him what it's going to entail, that he'll be talking and preaching to people who are intentionally not going to hear listen or understand him, I think Isaiah just really exasperatedly in verse 11 says, “Lord, how long?” How long am I going to have to face this trial, to be with these people who don't understand me? How long do I have to continue to speak and be in these situations where I feel so outcast and so different from other people? How long is this going to last? And this line, not on the first reading, but on the third reading, really struck me as a line that I feel like I've said to myself before, particularly when I face my feminism in the church. How long do I have to be the one that speaks up in in lessons, or how long do I have to be the one who doesn't feel like they fit in just right, because I'm too radical or too liberal or too, whatever. But that exhaustion of “how long” I think is a really shared experience among Mormon feminists. 

C: Absolutely. I agree. And so going along with that, I think, Elise and I just wanted to share quickly, maybe in hopes of making those of you who are also listening feel less alone, and maybe so that you can recognize some of your own journey in ours. We just wanted to share some of our own experiences with our own feminist awakenings, and what our experiences have been in the church as we followed that path.

E: So for me, I knew about feminism towards the end of my bachelor's degree and then into my master's degree. And at first they were on separate paths. I had my faith and then I had my feminism, and they were both kind of developing separate from one another. And there were some books that were really eye opening, like John Caputo's On Religion, that talked about more of the faith side, about God as love and multiple interpretations of truth. And so that was really foundational for my faith side. And the Birth of Pleasure that we've talked about in past episodes, by Carol Gilligan, that was really impactful for my feminist side. And then in my master's program, I was reading this book that I've talked about called Beyond God the Father by Mary Daly. And it brought both my faith and my feminism into question. Not just into question, but it brought them into conversation, and it helped me realize that, look, I don't have to have these two fragmented selves. Why can't I bring all of myself to each scenario? Why can't I bring my feminist side to church and my faith side to the everyday life that I have? And from that book, I just started to see all of the ways, and systems of oppression, and patriarchy, and see all of the ways that women are othered and silenced and pushed aside, that their experience in the church is incredibly different and oftentimes less than the male’s experience in the church. And for me, and I think for others too, once you start seeing, you can't unsee it. And it's really difficult because I remember thinking when I was reading this book, like, what do you mean? I don't want my feminism to come in and start having me question my own faith. This is my entire world, because I had grown up in the church and my faith was my identity. It's how I understood my past, present, and future lives. And so to call that into question because of feminism felt like my entire world was on shaky ground. And I wanted to look away at first. I wanted to say, Nope, I am not going to question. I don't want feminism to come into this realm of my life, because what will that mean if I have to face all of this injustice that I'm now seeing? And that's why I said before, once you start to see you can't unsee it, but it's a really scary place to be because your entire worldview just collapses and you don't feel like there's anything else under you to catch you when you fall. 

C: I always feel a little hesitant to share my feminist awakening because it came about in a really strange way. So just a quick background on me, I grew up as a reader. My mom was librarian. She would take me to the library. I would spend hours in the stacks, just reading literally any book that I could get my hands on. And, you know, as one does of my, I don't know, as one does, one becomes very interested in witches. And for me, that's always just been a fascination, even from childhood, I just thought withces and the history of witchcraft and witch persecution and witchcraft itself is just very interesting. And I've always just kind of been… curious about it, I guess is the right word. And so, you know, but also being totally aware that Mormon and witch don't really go together, right? They seem like such opposite sides of the spectrum. And so I never really allowed myself to become very curious about it. That was until I had come across a book recommendation from a friend on her blog that was like, “Oh, I just came across this book about the history of witches, and you should read it.” And I was like, “Okay, great.” And it was just a short, maybe 200-page book. So it's called Witch by Lisa Lister, if anyone here wants to check it out, I personally think it's good, but it is the book of that sparked my feminist awakening. I know it's weird guys, but for some reason that was the thing that opened my eyes to patriarchy. It opened my eyes to feminine oppression. It opened my eyes to my own power as a woman, that I had permission just because I was a person to have a voice, to be active in my own life, and to have my own ideas. And so my feminist awakening was pretty quiet. At the time that this came about, I was really struggling with postpartum depression and anxiety and PTSD. And I had a lot of other things that were happening on the surface of my life that required a lot of my time and caring attention. And so my feminist awakening came about very slowly. But as I read more, because once I get started on a topic, I just become ravenous, I read everything. So I was reading archeological studies, I was reading sociological studies, I get nerdy, guys. I don't go to school like Elise does,so I don't have all the resources. I just get whatever I'm lucky to come across in a Google search, but I slowly came to realize that feminism was a pathway for me to liberation, and a pathway for me to find my own power. But for a long time I was afraid to talk to anyone about it. And surprisingly, Elise happened to be my visiting teacher and, you know, she knew me before I had even come across the witch book. But a few months after I had just been reading a ton, not talking to anyone about it, I finally just told Elise, “Hey…” I was just going to say, once I met you, my own understanding of feminism and my own interests in it just completely skyrocketed.” And so it was in a series of meetings where we just like talked about Heavenly Mother, and women in the scriptures, and then started to slowly become more courageous and more authentic in how we thought and felt about feminism, and just women in general. 

C: And I wrote an Instagram post kind of talking about this, but this was really in the budding days of our friendship. And I had never met someone like Channing, who was all of the lovely things that she is, excited and creative and super passionate and very caring and enthusiastic, and also a member of the church. But I had also never met someone who was interested in the same things that I was, or who was willing to ask the same types of questions that I was. And so our friendship, at the beginning stages, we were kind of tiptoeing around each other, “Oh, what's that book that you have right there. Oh, is that women in the scriptures? Oh, that's, that's cool that you care about their experience.” And then I think you said to me, “Oh, well, have you ever read Eve and the Choice Made in Eden? And you let me borrow that book. And then we talked about Goddesses and myths. And we talked about psyche and you said, “Oh, well, why don't we read C.S. Lewis's Till We Have Faces?” And I said, “Well, why don't we read The Birth of Pleasure together?” And so it was all of these small movements that each of us made being courageous and asking a question. And that was the thing that really built up our relationship. But it also, and we've talked about this before, both of us were so crucial to each other's feminist awakenings in the church. And I don't know if we would have, actually, I do know we would not have gotten to the place of faith and feminism today if we didn't have each other then.

C: Absolutely. And there was kind of a turning point for me in my feminist awakening. There was a brief incident that happened. Elise and I were in the same ward. So it happened in our ward and to make a long story short, there was a huge kind of uproar in our ward because I had, I don't know, Elise, how do I say this nicely? Been accused of dissidence? 

E: Yeah. Like been accused of witchcraft.

C: Literally guys, someday we'll have another episode maybe completely devoted to telling the stories, going into more detail of what we've experienced. And we can talk about this at a later date, but yeah, I was accused of witchcraft, released for my calling, and it was kind of a huge uproar in our ward. And it was honestly at the time, even though it was so traumatic for me, it was so hard, looking back now, three years later, I'm really grateful for it because it was a time in my life that required me to really examine my beliefs. Because if you think about, you know, incidences from people that you've heard in the church, like, “Oh, this Bishop said this and this to me. And so I felt like I was so offended and I needed to leave.” That stuff happens and it's totally valid. And this was that case for me. I was like, well, this Bishop just did this terrible thing to me. So if I wanted to leave, if I want to walk out of these church doors right now, no one's going to blame me. And so I had to really dig down to find what I believe. Do I want to stay? Because if I do, or if I don't, here's my easy way out. I can just walk out these doors. No one's going to blame me. No one's going to ask me to come back. If I wanted an out, here it is. And I kind of felt like this was a situation where God presented me with a crossroads and said, “All right, you've been learning and you've been learning, and you've been gathering and questioning, and it's decision time. What do you want to do?” And so come Sunday, I went to church, it's fast and testimony meeting. I bore my testimony, which was what, a whopping three sentences? Everyone was looking at me. It was really intimidating. And I then committed to having my butt in a chair at church every day. Every Sunday, until I moved out of that word. And even still in my new ward, committed to having my butt in that chair every Sunday. And so it was a turning point for me because I had to decide, do I want to be Mormon? Do I want to be a feminist? Or do I want to be a Mormon feminist? And I mean, obviously we're here now doing this podcast, so we all know what I decided, right?

E: Yeah. We need to do another episode where we go into more detail, but to bring it back to the scriptures, this “Lord, how long?” really is a kind of rallying cry, I think, for Mormon feminists, because these experiences that Channing's describing or the questions that we’re both describing, the questions that you come up against, the suffering, the injustice, the dismissal, these are all things that will continue to happen, not just because we're human, but because we are standing our ground, keeping our butts in seats, going to church, or maybe for you, maybe you've left the church and you're still trying to figure out all of these things, but “Lord, how long?” It's an endless question. And we have to keep seeking, how long now, how long now, after this experience, how much longer? Not the fact that we're saying, “Oh, we hope it will end,” even if we feel that way, but almost in a type of saying, or I think one way we could rework it is to say, “Look how long I've been doing this.” 

C: Right. Well, and I think too, even if we say, “How long do I have to?” Let's get specific. “How long to I have to go to Sunday school and see only male teachers teaching on Sunday?” “How many family dinners do I have to sit through where they basically drag feminists and feminism completely in the mud?” And they're all doing it to get at me and get a rise out of me. How many, you know, arguments and discussions do I have to have with my husband where he says, “Why can't you just let this feminism thing go?” You know, how many callings do I have to be released from because people are afraid of me? How many sit-downs do I have to have with a Bishop or my relief society president who say, “Channing, you can't talk about that stuff in church.” And you know, there are very specific things. How long? These are not things that just say, “Oh man, how long is this church meeting?” We just went from three hours to two hours. Great, yay. Liberation. No, like this is how long do I have to keep working at this? Even when I know people are not listening, even when I know people are afraid of me, even when I feel like I'm not making any difference, how long do I keep at this?

E: And because this is a question that we will keep coming up against, this is why you need friends. Not just friends for the end of the world, going back to the apocalyptic side, but you need friends who are there in the struggle, because there's still a world today. There are still these specific examples where we do ask how long, and you can get exhausted and you need people to step in for you and to support you and pick you up and encourage you along the way. And you need friends for that. This is why I couldn't go through any of this without Channing. And I couldn't go through any of it without all of you who are listening and who are participating in these conversations with us. We need each other.

C: Absolutely. So, I mean, really what more is there to say than Sisters in Zion? 

E: Exactly. Exactly.

E: So I hope that you enjoyed our conversation today about the daughters of Zion/sisters in Zion, apocalyptic thinking, and also some of our own exasperations and encouragements about being feminist and Mormon. 

C: We're so grateful that you've spent this time with us today. We know it's probably going to be kind of a longer episode, but we're glad you've stuck it through and we can't wait to hear what you think, because this is a conversation and this is a sisterhood. So send us an email, find us on Instagram @thefaithfulfeminists. You can leave a comment in one of our posts. I'm sure we'll be talking about this this week, or you can send us a DM or an email. We love to hear from you. So until, then see you next week!

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