Witness at the Whitmer's (Doctrine & Covenants 14-17)

Monday, February 15, 2021


photo credit: Anastasia Zhenina

C: Hi, I'm Channing 

E: and I'm Elise. 

C:And this is The Faithful Feminists podcast.

E: But this is not just any Come Follow Me podcast. We do things a little differently here. We offer approachable feminist interpretations of the Come Follow Me manual for those who want to study and understand the scriptures in a framework of equality, social justice, and sisterhood. We are here to show you all the really good ways that faith and feminism work together to eliminate and deepen the gospel experience. 

C: We've saved you a seat on the soft chairs so join us today for a conversation about Doctrine and Covenants sections 14- 17 for the dates February 15th- 21st.  We're so glad you're here.

E:Welcome back. In this episode, we have Joseph, Emma and Oliver Cowdrey on the move. They are making their way over to the Whitmers house to find refuge from some of the persecutions that they're facing in Harmony and to continue working on the translation. Also in these sections, many of the Whitmer boys and the father asked Joseph to seek out revelation for them about what God wants them to do.

And I think in this episode, we're going to spend a lot of our time focusing on three different concepts: the idea of hospitality, the idea of seeking something that is worth something or has value, and then also what it means to witness or be a witness. 

I also felt that this week, the Come Follow Me manual was really helpful in my study of the scriptures. These sections are pretty short and they are personal revelation to specific people that of course can be applied to us. But I was really thankful that the Come Follow Me manual added a bit more context, a bit more weight to these scriptures. And I felt like they were a really good guide for the study this week.  And we don't always feel that way. So I was impressed. 

C: Yeah, it's kind of nice. Especially when the chapters are a little repetitive, which I felt like these ones were, to have that. Yeah. Just like you said, that some background and it is nice. Cause very often we just look at the manual to see what the reading is, so it's nice to be able to have a supplement that actually supplements a feminist interpretation of the text. 

E: Yeah, absolutely. And from the Come Follow Me manual, it says, "Even though the work of translation was progressing well, by May 1829 the situation in Harmony had become more difficult for Joseph, Emma and Oliver. Hostility from neighbors was growing while support from Emma's family was waning."

And so you have this like particular situation that they find themselves in where things aren't feeling safe anymore. And so Oliver reaches out to his friend David Whitmer to see if all three of them can move in with the Whitmers in their home to finish translating the Book of Mormon. And it says that the Whitmers' "quite readily open their doors," even though none of them had ever met Joseph before. That's so wild.

C: Can you imagine your friend calling you up and being like, Hey, can me and my friend and his wife move in? I'd be like, uh, no. 

E: Well, yeah. And that's I think the radical part about this is that.

This family already had eight children of their own in between ages like 15 to 30. Some of them lived at home, some of them didn't, but there were definitely, there's a lot of work to be done in this household. And then to take on three other people who are, I mean, they were in their early twenties. And so it's just a lot.

And I don't know if people have experienced like, um, with, well, you have experienced, like when some of your family members came and stayed with you for a little while your routines changed. So much changes because you have these other outside people living with you now. 

C: For sure. Its not just like, Oh, we lost space in the house. And that is not even an issue, you know what I mean? But when you have people living with you who aren't members of your immediate  nuclear family unit,  just like you said, your whole schedule changes. There's people in your space, especially specially if your home is on the smaller side and, and like you find yourself having to work around like mealtimes and different, like traditions and different ways of doing things.

And like, and it's not like it's a necessarily a bad thing, but it is a change. And especially when you're so used to being in your own space, to open your space and share it with someone is, um, it's a challenge.

E: Yeah. And your routines have to change and your attitude and your behavior has to change, right. You can't like walk around the house without any clothes on, or you can't like, um, fight in the ways that you would typically fight with the other people that live in your house and you can't like get upset because the dishes aren't done, because maybe that wasn't an explicit rule. And so there's just already a lot of... definitely an adjustment period built into it.

Space is an issue, potential conflicts can arise, and there's a lot more work and labor that goes into caring for your own nuclear family. Plus these three new people that you've never met, but you've probably heard a lot about. 

And I think that's, uh, an important point that the text makes that even though the Whitmer family had never met Joseph, I do think that they had to be aware of some of the things that he was being accused of and some of the stories that were being told about the Smith family at the time. And so I think it's this kind of radical act of hospitality and they take a chance on Joseph and Emma and Oliver and say, all right, like we're going to suspend all of our assumptions. We're going to stop listening to the stories. And we're just going to see for ourselves what this work is all about. 

C: I really love that perspective. And I think that there's some valuable questions that we can kind of tease out of the text that we can ask for ourselves. Questions like who, or what groups of people do we feel most scared to welcome and why, where do those fears come from? Do they come from stories that we've heard? Do they come from the media? Do they come from our own personal experience? And even with all of that, how can we stay open to being surprised by people, as opposed to making limiting assumptions about people and things we don't know and don't really understand. 

E: Those are hard questions. Because then we have to come face to face with our prejudice and our bias and who we consider worthy of welcoming and who we consider worthy of ignoring or dismissing. 
And I think for the church, definitely there is this weird space for the LGBTQ community, where the church says like, we love you, we want you here, but we're not doing this full welcoming of you because you don't have full participation and nor for full access to all of the different elements of the gospel. And I'm wondering if some of our fears or hesitations for welcoming the LGBTQ community come from, I don't know. I don't really think that they would come from our experience because in my own experience, If I'm up close and personal with someone, if I make a friend, if I have deep conversations, those are the things that start to shed away or pure peel back the layers of my prejudice and my bias and my assumptions. And I start like really loving and valuing and connecting with people as opposed to the simply the stories that I've heard about them. 

C: Well, it's like that quote from Brene Brown, where she says, "It's hard to hate people close up, move in," right. Well, I think just to kind of like go along with your point, I think you're right.

It maybe doesn't come from personal experiences. I think it comes from stories. I think it comes from limited understandings. I think it comes from assumptions that are based in fear, really. And so I think just like you said, getting to know people and having a personal experience. Is a great way to peel back those fears and peel away those assumptions so that we can get to know the heart of others.

But also at the same time, part of me wants to say,  I think it's unfair to say like, Oh, I must have my own personal experience of like loving someone who is explicitly LGBTQ. And instead I think activism in and of itself should be an act of faith and say, like taking, you know, the verse from Doctrine and Covenants later on this year where it says "the worth of souls is great." 

Well, the worth of all souls is great and it shouldn't matter. Like eventually we should get to the point, right where it shouldn't matter if someone, um, is LGBTQ or it shouldn't matter if somebody is a woman or it shouldn't matter if somebody is Black, like all of those identities matter. But our love for them shouldn't change or shift forms depending on what their identity is. The love should just be present all the time. 

So, yes, I think like getting to know people is good and valuable and an important part of the work because it grows our love for them. But also at the same time, our activism shouldn't be based on only a limited personal experience and a limited understanding. I really think that it should be based in faith. 

E: Yeah. Well, I think you said that so well, and it that's exactly what the Whitmer family seems to have done. Right? They don't actually have a personal experience or have personal relationships with Joseph or Emma. And yet there's still this moment where they have to choose, they have to act, or they have to act on their faith and say, you know what? I do believe that the worth of souls is great. And I do believe in loving my neighbor and the stranger. And so for those reasons, I'm going to continue to welcome them into my home, to suspend my assumptions about them and to be surprised by all of the things that they can teach me and all of the ways that I can change through them or through this experience.

After Joseph, Emma, and Oliver arrive at the Whitmer home, they begin their work of translation. And then there are a few chapters that focus on different revelations that Joseph Smith receives from God as prompted by John, John, and Peter Whitmer. Both of these people want to know what would be of the most worth in their life.

In chapter 15, verse four, it says "for many times you have desired of me to know that which would be at the most worth unto you." And I think this is a interesting question that is being posed by John and Peter to God, or to Joseph so that Joseph can ask God, but what would be of the most worth? And I'm wondering, like, what are some other ways we could frame this question that maybe seem more accessible or more relevant right now?

C: Well, I think we could offer just a different wording, right? Like changing the wording around. So instead of like, "what is of the most worth" it could be, where should I focus my time and energy? What matters most? Or even what is my purpose? Because I want to make an impact. I want to find value in my life, but maybe this will come to me in ways that I haven't previously accessed or understood.

E: Yeah, I like that a lot. So like what matters most? And I think the, like, what is my purpose? That to me is such a daunting question. I'm always like, I don't know. It's a big question. So if it makes sense to me that, of course, like you've got this prophet and translator living with you, like might as well ask, we'll ask and see what type of answer that can come.

Then in chapter 15, verse six, the response from God is, "the thing which will be of the most worth unto you will be to declare repentance unto this people that you may bring souls on onto me, that you may rest with them in the kingdom of God." And so from God, we get this like three part answer.
Your purpose or the area where you should focus your time and your energy should be in this first to declare repentance; second, so that you can bring souls to God; and then third and finally, so that you'll be able to rest in heaven with these people. And I thought maybe we could spend some time like breaking down the three parts of this response to see what new ideas come up.

C: Yeah. I think that'd be great, especially for this declare repentance one, because this is one that we've seen repeated over the last couple of chapters, not even just for this week's readings. And so I think that it's because we've seen this pop up so much, that it would totally be worth our time talking about what does declaring repentance really mean?

And what does that look like? And I think a good example of declaring repentance is thinking about Jacob from the Book of Mormon. He's one of my favorite prophets, because he does such a good job at declaring repentance and using his example. If you don't remember, if you haven't listened to that episode yet, or you haven't read the chapters, Jacob was a prophet in the Book of Mormon, who he has a really short section in the text, maybe only four... I think it's like six chapters, but in chapter two, he talks to all of the men in his community and is basically like, Hey, stop cheating on your wives. Stop like abusing your children and like show up for your families and show up for your community and show up for your God. 

And he just gives us like very beautiful, eloquent speech, kind of like, almost like an independence day, like rally yourself up, like declaring to repentance speech. And in that episode, Elise and I talked about for those who oppress others, the call to repentance can seem harsh. It can seem accusatory and biting, but for those who are oppressed, hearing these calls to repentance can be a balm to the soul. And there's a quote from The Book of Mormon for the Least of These that's written by Dr. Fatimah Salleh and Margaret Olsen Hemming. And they say, 

"At first glance, it may seem strange that the women have to sit through this meeting," because they're all there. It's women and men are listening to Jacob's call to repentance. And they continue saying, "After all, Jacob states at the beginning that this sermon is not for them and hearing the words will cause them additional pain. As Jacob acknowledges, these women are in a vulnerable place and they came to hear healing words for their wounded souls, not to be confronted by the feelings of their husbands, sons, and fathers. So why doesn't Jacob confront the men in private? The answer it seems is accountability. 

By stating these words in front of the women, Jacob is making the men accountable to their wives. The women have to sit through painful words. But Jacob is wielding his power to bring them some authority and justice. This is a radical action given that the Nephite culture seems like other ancient cultures, hierarchical and patriarchal. Jacob is willing to shame the men in front of the women and children and action that levels of power structure. There's a subtext to his call for repentance, one in which people with more social power are being held accountable to those with less."

E: I just love that. I'm so glad that you were able to bring it up here too. When we talk about declaring repentance, because I think that's just spot on like, those who are on the margins and who are oppressed these calls to repentance the calls for their oppressors to repent, those are things that lead to liberation and freedom and reconciliation. And of course, I'm not saying like no one on the margins has any personal things that we need to like repent of, or turn our hearts back to God, I'm not saying that, but in this passage, I like the language that talks about the leveling out of power structures and the call to repentance to be a way for those who are oppressed or marginalized to hold their oppressors accountable and to demand change.

C: Yeah. And I think just like you said, it's a good example of what. Being an ally looks like is using your power, your privilege, and your community to give voice and opportunity to those who have less. Right. So a favorite, one of my favorite stories ever in the Book of Mormon. I'm so glad we got to talk about it here.

E: Me too. And I think with this idea of declaring repentance, I think we can also think of it being a change of heart or a turning or returning to Jesus. And I think this leads us to the next, like the second part of God's three-part answer, which is "declare repentance so that you can bring souls onto me."
But I think that this bringing souls unto God is way bigger than any like missionary conversion rate or like number of baptisms. I don't really think that this line is about converting people to the LDS church. For me, I think this line is about showing them the peace and freedom that comes from God and Jesus, like regardless of any religious structure. It's about individual personal relationship with God. 

C: One thought that's coming to me when I think about this is when I was going through my yoga teacher training, I sometimes felt like, Oh, who am I to be teaching this? Like, I don't know anything. I can't even do this pose we're learning. How, how am I supposed to teach it? One thing that I walked away from that experience learning is that I don't have to know everything, and I don't have to be the expert, and I don't have to be like the one and only knower of all things to be able to share what I do know. All I have to be is like, just a little bit further ahead on the path.

And so I, I like that perspective when it comes to this idea of bringing souls unto God. Cause I think a lot of times, um, That can kind of get wrapped up in pride. Like, Oh, I have to know everything. Like if I know all of the missionary discussions and I know all there is to know about like the LDS church, then, then I'll be ready to bring souls into God when really like, it's not really even about me.

Right. It's not about like what I know or about what. Like I've experienced. It's just about me being a little bit further ahead on the path and saying like, Oh, there's a rock there. Like don't step on it. Or like, watch out for the cactus that's poking out into the trail. Like that's all my purpose is. And hopefully, eventually the people behind me will pass me and there's always going to be people in front of me. And there's always going to be people ahead of me, but ultimately, like it's not my job, like walk with people their whole entire life way and tell them exactly what to do. My job is to continue walking my path and let those behind me know what I have come across and look to those in front of me to continue learning.  Like we're all in this together. 

And ultimately Jesus is the one that's bringing souls unto God. And we're all just like following in his footsteps. So I like this perspective, this shift in conversation about like bringing souls unto God being like a bigger and more nuanced thing, rather than just like baptism quotas.

E: Right. Right. And I really like what you shared here about like being at different places on the path. And I think to like take the hierarchy out of it, it's not that, in my perspective, if I feel ahead or behind someone that doesn't mean I am better or worse or more knowledgeable or less knowledgeable, I wonder if we can think of the path as like a, uh, what's that line, like one eternal round. So there's no, there's no like. Oh, you've made it to mile three. And that means you're two miles ahead of everyone behind you. It just means that there are different places and we're all lapping each other. And that also means we all pass each other. 

And so for those moments that we get to spend together, how do we share our experiences about God, about the divine? How do we comfort those that are with us or pass us? And I think that imagery of being on this like circular path was really helpful. So thank you for bringing that up. 

That brings us then to the third and final piece of God's response, which is that you may rest with them in heaven. And if we think of all of these people that are on the path with us, we get this really beautiful picture of heaven or of God's kingdom as being a place where we all are. And when we're all there, that means we can rest. 

C: You know what I kind of pictured as heaven? The only race I've ever run is a 5k, but at the end of a 5k, they have like all these refreshment tables and juice boxes and everyone's sweaty and gross and disgusting and out of breath, but they're all just like they're cheering on the people who are like coming through the finish line, snacking on their juice boxes and eating muffins. And there's like, the nurse's station over there that's like watching out for anyone who's fainting at the end. And I kind of like hope that heaven is like that a little bit. Like there's juice box waiting for me when I get there. 

And it's not like, even though you have gone on the race, I don't know, you went on this path, as an individual person. You met people along the way. And then you celebrate at the end as if you were all part of a team running it. Like you continue to cheer for people as they come in, even if you don't know them, but because you have the shared experience of like, wow, that was exhausting. That was so rewarding. Like, I can't believe we did it.  I can't believe we're here together. 

E: I found a passage that I think paints a really beautiful picture of what we're trying to talk about. And I'm not exactly sure who the author is, but these aren't my words, but the author writes, "Family is the stage most of us play out our lives on. There are people who know us best, who's companionship, safety, and wellbeing we prize, and to whom the gifts of our labor are guided and rewarded. Whether that family is built of bloodlines or friendship, it's trust, loyalty, and love that are the ties that bind. To imagine a future that gives back and provides for generations to come is to consider it with respect and generosity. It is about moving past selfish motives and short-term goals to a larger, more encompassing plan that provides for the whole, not just the individual."

And what I love about this passage is it just makes me think that we can only make it out if we make it out together, and we can only rest if we have others to rest with, and heaven will only be heaven if we share it with other people. And that's not just to say our blood family, like I want everyone there. It's just so nice. Even when we want alone time,  there are moments when I like alone time with other people who want alone time, like when I want to rest by myself, I also want other want to know that other people get to rest too.

C: Amber Richardson and I, we call it 'alone together' or 'together alone,' where we just like spend time in separate rooms and we're like working on our own projects and doing our own things, but it's just nice to be together. Like we were at a retreat and Amber had her like beautiful music playing in the other room and I was just like typing away, chomping on crackers in my room. And we would like come and check in on each other and just say like, how are you doing? Good? How are you? And then we just say like, Oh, it's so nice to be together alone. And it is. 

E: And so I hope maybe this week that we can consider some of the same questions that John and Peter were asking, like, where should I focus my time and energy? What matters most? What's my purpose? And then see how God's three-part response can play into our lives about declaring repentance or using our privilege and being an ally and calling out actions and characteristics and behaviors that are oppressive, and trying to change them so that we can bring souls to God in a place of liberation and peace, always remembering that heaven is only heaven with other people. 

Finally, when we look primarily in chapter 17, but also a little bit in section 14, there's a recurring theme of the importance of witnesses, what it means to be a witness. And so I just wanted to read a few verses here to kind of set the context for our conversation about witness.

Section 14, verse eight says, "and it shall come to pass that if you shall ask the father in my name in faith, believing you shall receive the Holy ghost, which given utterance that you may stand as a witness of the things, which he shall both hear and see. And also that you may declare repentance unto this generation." And then if we go to section 17, there's talk of the three witnesses of the Book of Mormon. It says Oliver Cowdrey had learned from the translation of the book of Mormon plates that three special witnesses would be designated. Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris were moved upon by an inspired desire to be the three special witnesses.

I think my first question is, okay, what does it mean to witness? 

C: We found this really great passage on the By Common Consent blog. And this was written by Jared Cook. He says "To stand as a witness of God means to tell the truth about our experience with grace, with forgiveness, with repentance, and with the Holy Ghost.

Witnesses' role is narrowly limited. A witness cannot testify about things outside of his or her personal knowledge. A witness speaks from personal knowledge gained by his or her own experience. If all I do is repeat words that I've memorized from someone else's experience that may have some limited value, but it isn't standing as a witness.

To stand as a witness of God I need to have my own experience with God. I need to have with the ook of Mormon calls "a mighty change of heart." I need to humble myself, repent call upon God, trust in Jesus alone for salvation and become what the book of Mormon calls "a new creature in Christ." When I have experienced the atonement and the grace of Christ, I have experienced God. And then I can stand as a witness of God."

E: I think I really liked this passage because it places importance on like a personal experience of God. And also that our personal experience is enough, right? Like. My words are valuable enough. They're weighty enough, the experiences that I've had with my God or in the world being a woman. Like those are all things that are quote enough to be a witness of God.

C: I like this too, because it shows us, you know, we believe that, that we are all children of God. And like, if that's true, then that means that we have a specific purpose that only we can fulfill. We have a space and a place in this world that only we can fill.

And this totally is coming from like my value of authenticity, but I really strongly believe, and it's so nice to see that validated here, that all we have to do is be our full selves and participate like in this relationship with God in a really authentic way in order to bring value. Like there's no, there's no other qualification except for just be you.

And I don't mean that in like a like fake takeaway that you can just like put on a plaque on your wall, like be yourself, but it's so valuable to know that all you have to do is show up as your full self in the world to, to be of value, to make a change, to do something great. And like I say that as if it's the easiest thing in the world, it is the hardest thing in the world to do that because it requires you to be fully embodied. I can't even say from personal experience that I do that all the time, but Oh, it's just such an incredible concept to think about because it's so simple, but the impact of it is huge for everyone. 

E: The Come Follow Me manual asks a follow-up question. "Why does God use witnesses in their work?" And they reference a footnote to second Corinthians chapter 13 verse one that reads, "this is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established."
And I think this first highlights the importance of having multiple people have your back. And this makes me think of like being and valuing witnesses also means believing and holding as valid, the words of women, the LGBTQ plus community, BIPOC, like. I think it's important, not just why witnessing matters, but also who is witnessing matters.

I think so when women witnessed with other women or when the marginalized witnessed with other marginalized groups that matters that gives number and voice and support to people that might otherwise be at risk. But I also think that those who are privileged witnessing and acting as an ally or standing in support of marginalized groups or peoples that matters like that is powerful work.
And that's when it starts to look like using our privilege to support other voices and other experiences that we might have otherwise have missed, and that might be at risk. Not that they need us, but we can use our privilege in this way to uphold or uplift or highlight the needs of those who are most marginalized.

C: Elise, I love this analysis about the power and value of not just the act of witnessing for yourself, but witnessing with others as well. And I, I think that a good thing. One of my favorite parts about church that gets a lot of flack I feel like is fast and testimony meeting. But I am always going to be like, this is the hill that I want  to die on apparently is fast and testimony meeting, but I feel like this is such a great example of what it means to witness. Like for yourself and witness with the community at the same time, because fast and testimony meeting is equal opportunity. Anybody can walk up there and say whatever the heck they want to in that microphone.

Sometimes it's hilarious. Sometimes it's a little alarming, but we're all there in this gigantic room, listening to each other's experiences with the divine. And I think that that is such a sacred thing that I can't, I have not found anywhere else. Like that's so precious and amazing. And I love that we are still continuing this practice of witnessing with and to each other on a regular basis in our communities. That's something I so treasure about the church. And so this discussion on witnesses, I think is so valuable when we think about it, not just an early church times, not just in the way that we think about like, Oh, the scriptures are witnessed and like, you know, the big deal ways, but in these like smaller, like mundane, almost everyday moments, even in fast and testimony meeting. So I loved this. Thank you so much for bringing that up. 

E: Of course, that was a really beautiful summary too. And yeah. I think in the kind of everyday way that you're talking about witnesses. I think that leads us really nicely to our conversation about Mary Whitmer.

And I was very impressed again with the Come Follow Me manual because they mentioned her witness of the gold plates by name in the Come Follow Me study, which I thought was really important. They didn't only focus on David Oliver and Martin Harris. They also included Mary there. So very exciting and a little bit of background on Mary Whitmer. She already had eight kids, like we talked about, and then these three other people move into our house. And so much of the caretaking responsibility already fell on her. And now when they have three new people, that's three more people that she is responsible for caring for, things like doing the laundry, preparing meals, cleaning, like there's a lot of labor that goes into upkeeping the household and making sure everyone is their wellbeing is cared for. 

And in the Saints book, it actually talks about how she had faith. I mean, clearly she was a big part in welcoming Joseph, Emma, and Oliver to the house. And she didn't complain that they were here, but she really was starting to be weighed down by all of this work, like lots of labor. And I feel like that's a really common feeling, even when we know that the work that we're doing is for a good cause doesn't mean that it's going to be easy or that the burden is going to be light. And I think Mary Witmer's a great example that like shoot sometimes good work is heavy labor. 

C: Yeah. I agree with you Elise and I thought that the Saints books set up her story really nicely. It says "One day while Mary was out by the barn where the cows were milked, she saw a gray haired man with a knapsack slung across his shoulder. His sudden appearance frightened her, but as he approached he spoke to her in a kind voice that set her at ease. 'My name is Moroni.' he said. "You have become pretty tired with all the extra work you have to do."

He swung the knapsack off his shoulder and Mary watched as he started to untie it. "You have been very faithful and diligent in your labors," he continued. "It is proper therefore that you should receive a witness, that your faith may be strengthened." Moroni opened his knapsack and removed the gold plates. He held them in front of her and turned their pages so she could see the writings on them. After he turned the last page, he urged her to be patient and faithful as she carried the extra burden a little longer. He promised she would be blessed for it. The old man vanished a moment later, leaving Mary alone.

She still had work to do, but that no longer troubled her."

E: What a fantastic experience for Mary though, especially if that's exactly what she needed to give her more sustenance, a bit of encouragement, or just a boost of confidence. I'm, I'm really impressed by the story and just the willingness of God and you know, all of the angels to like show up for people in history when they need it.

And I don't know, honestly, if Mary had like asked specifically for a sign or a bit of revelation of the gold plates, from what I read, it doesn't make that clear if she asked for it. But that sounds like it was exactly what she needed, even if she didn't know she needed it. But what about you? What strikes you about this story? Or like, what do you think we can learn here? 

C: I think I have a little bit more of a critical look at this story. Um, just from my own experiences as a wife and a mom and of someone who has had people live with her and also to thinking about the work of, um, Theresa Trisha Hersey at the Nap Ministry.

I wonder, or I'm curious, or I'm worried that the way that this story is told, even though it does sound like a totally fantastic folk tale, it also strikes me a little bit as like spiritually bypassing because the actual real life work of caring for a family, caring for guests like cleaning the laundry, making the meals, cleaning the home, taking care of the farm, taking care of the children, taking care of guests, like that's real and it's demanding and it's hard, hard, hard on your body.

And I think. I think in some ways, but especially in the church, we're often really tempted to say like, but don't worry. None of that matters because the angel Moroni showed up to her and gave her this amazing experience of the like Book of Mormon, the gold plates. So she should be happy with like, whatever else it is that she has to do. Like she should be happy. 

And I'm just a little wary of that because certainly while this could be an incredible experience, my own personal experience with God is that I would, more than I would want God to like, give me a sign or like, give me a wonderful, like, Meditative experience where I finally understood something, I would also want God to like, participate with me in the everyday and help me figure out how to truly make my burdens lighter in the everyday work.

I don't know though, now that I'm saying it, maybe that's what I want for Mary, but maybe that's not what Mary needed. Like maybe I'm feeling that way in my own particular life right now. But like, I'm even thinking about times where. Like I had an amazing dream, something that was relevant and important to an issue that I was working on. And I woke up and I immediately felt better and it did make my life easier. And, or like, I will have a meditative experience where I will come to an understanding that does make my circumstances easier to handle.

And so, I don't know. I'm just wary. I think that's kind of like the balance that I want to bring to it. Like, yes, spiritual experiences can make our burdens in real life lighter, but also God, as liberator does more than just like feed us spiritually. God also feeds us physically as well.

And so I think just, I think I'm wanting to be a cautionary voice of using stories like this to justify. I think the bulk of the burden of having Oliver and Emma and Joseph in her home definitely fell on Mary. And so I don't want like this experience to outweigh all of the sacrifice that she had to make because of what her social position was at the time. I don't want that to not be relevant and not be meaningful. And I don't want this story to be her full liberation. Does that makes sense? 

E: Yeah. No, I think that's a really important point too. And I think you like situate us really nicely at the position of like trust and suspicion. 

Like how can we trust this experience that Mary did have and maybe, and like also say like, wow, it sounds like it was exactly what she needed. It sounds like it was rejuvenating for her and encouraging for her. And also say, but is there anything more behind this story? Is there anything that we're missing or that we might be wary or suspicious of? Because, and this is my guess in her reality, like she might have this experience and she might internally have her spirit fed, but that also like, but then she still had to go back to the house and do all of the same chores, all of the same labor.

So there's this kind of split between maybe her soul was nourished, but maybe what she also needed was for God to say, like, Let me give you a physical break. You need a nap and you need like someone else to help you with this labor, me or someone in your family or, or I don't know, but I think that's an important point too, to push past what is given to us in this experience. I don't want to like take away the importance of her witness, but I think what you're saying is like, yes. And let's look deeper. 

C: Yeah. I agree. And seem like I don't want to minimize, this is really incredible, honestly, to like have the angel Moroni show up to you and show you the gold plates. That is incredible. And I don't want to take away from that, but I'm more just trying to anticipate the impact that this story could possibly have.
And, and the way that I anticipate this story possibly being weaponized and just saying like, Oh ladies, don't worry. Like you can have amazing, incredible spiritual experiences too. Well, also like your bodies are exhausted and you're still responsible for caring for all the kids and the house and everything all by yourself.

So, yeah, I agree. Just that, like really, I'm sure people will hate this, but just like that really. Its that point of tension, right? Like that conflict between like this experience was amazing. And also it happened to her for a reason. And she has like still has to go back to that life and live that life.

So I think that this point in the lesson is an excellent opportunity for us to kind of examine the multiple levels story, like calls us to consider and ponder. So on the surface level, it could be excitement and joy that this incredible revelatory experience of a woman is included in the Come Follow Me manual. That's a big deal. And if you're wanting to celebrate that, and that's what you want to focus on, we're here with you and we're celebrating with you. 

If you're feeling like you want to dig a little deeper and look at more of a whole perspective, of what Mary's life might have looked like and where this experience falls into that we're here. We're ready to dig with you. 

And finally, maybe this is an opportunity for you to look at your own life and say, in what ways do I need spiritual nourishment or physical nourishment or rest or care, and how can God, or how can those around me show up for me in that need and support?

E: Friends. Thank you so much for joining us on this episode where we got to talk about what it means to suspend our assumptions about other people and try and welcome them with open arms, even if that means opening up our household sometimes. We also got to talk about asking God questions about what our purpose is and how we can call people to repentance so that we can share a heavenly space with them both here and after. And also explore the experience that Mary Whitmer had receiving a witness of the gold plates 

C: Friends, we've loved having this conversation, and we're so excited to share it with you. We hope as you dive into the text on your own this week that you come up with amazing and fantastic perspectives. And hopefully we can all share those together. We love you so much and we can't wait to talk to you soon.
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