Words of Women & Wisdom (Doctrine & Covenants 89-92)

Monday, August 30, 2021


Full transcript by the amazing Heather B!

Channing: Hi! I’m Channing.

Elise: And I’m Elise.

Channing: And this is The Faithful Feminists podcast.

Elise: [00:00:12] 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 faith and feminism work together to illuminate and deepen the gospel experience. 

Channing: We saved you a seat on the soft chairs. So join us today for a conversation about Doctrine and Covenants sections 89 through 92 for the dates August 16th through the 22nd. We're so glad you're here.

Elise: [00:00:57]  Yes. Welcome back everyone. I think before we jump into the episode, we just want to remind you that we have our very, very first in-person workshop coming up. We're calling it the Soft Chairs Workshop because you know what we always say, “we're saving you a seat on the soft chairs” and we're really excited to try and be able to do that in person on Saturday, October 9th, from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM in South Jordan, Utah.

Channing: [00:01:21] We're so excited for you to join us for a day full of feminism and scriptures. Together in the company of fellow learners, we'll explore main themes of feminist theory, critique and theology in a way that is approachable, accessible, and relevant to our everyday lives. And there's something just really incredible about exploring the scriptures together in a community, in a group.

[00:01:45] And we're so thrilled to be able to be doing that with you in October. So we really, really hope you'll join us.

Elise: [00:01:53] But also this event is for you if you're desiring a community of people who can help you get creative and ask questions and bring your whole self to your spirituality. In this way, we can work together and be in really close knit community with other learners and question-askers and awesome feminists who are tired of worn out, watered down interpretations of scripture.

Channing: [00:02:19]  We're thrilled to be able to share everything that we've learned so that at the end of the event you can walk away with greater confidence in reading scriptures, simple techniques and skills for feminist interpretation and a deeper connection with your soft chair sisters, which we think is really going to be the highlight of the event.

[00:02:37] So, if you would like to sign up, we encourage you to head over to the link in our bio, in our Instagram page or over to our website where the eventbrite page is linked. We have three different price points for tickets and they all receive identical access to the event. We have the reduced price, the standard price and the generous price. No matter what ticket you buy, you receive all day access to the workshop, a delicious meal catered by Vessel Kitchen, and some refreshments at the end. If you choose to sign up at the generous price point you'll fund scholarship opportunities for other Soft Chair Sisters to attend the event. So we encourage you no matter what price point you buy the ticket at, we're just so excited to see you and we can't wait for October.

Elise:  [00:03:29] Also one final note before we jump in, we've been receiving a lot of great DMs and emails about our episode from last week, Mothers at Home, At Work and At Play. And in that episode, we talked about a really painful and harmful policy from the church education system that excluded women with children from teaching Seminary.

[00:03:49] And many of you are being really helpful and saying, “Hey, that was an old policy from 2014 and has since then been corrected.” Which, thank you so much for pointing us in that direction. We appreciate the feedback. And we also had some thoughts about that too.

Channing: [00:04:03] Yeah, yeah, for sure. And definitely some feelings. So we decided to hop on Instagram stories and share a little bit of those. So you'll be able to find all of that in our highlight bubble on Instagram. 

Elise: [00:04:15] Okay. Enough on the front end, let's get into the episode. Like we said before, it's Word of Wisdom time and we have this really special guest emphasis on Vienna Jaques. One thing that I noticed when I was reading this section is that I actually haven't read the Word of Wisdom section in so long. And because of that, I was expecting it to be way, way more straightforward and almost demanding because that's the way our church has twisted it or reframed it, which is really such a shame because when reading the actual section, section 89, I found it to be so tender and generous and filled with gentle guidance and recommendations. There also wasn't this, like, fear based tactic used where maybe God would say something, like, “If you drink this or eat that I'm going to send the devil and his angels to curse you in the night and you will never receive any blessings for your whole life.”

[00:05:09] That was not the mood or the vibe. 

Channing: [00:05:10] In doing some of my research about the Word of Wisdom, actually, this was something that was really striking because like, I'm not sure what the right word for it is... Abstinence? or, like, a transfer away from, like, alcohol and tobacco was kind of becoming popular, especially in religious circles at the time.

[00:05:33] And the Word of Wisdom was very uniquely placed in that it didn't have, like, a lot of, like, shaming language or a lot of, like, really intense punishing language. And so in that way, the Word of Wisdom is very unique in comparison to a lot of its other contemporary suggestions that were coming from other, religious communities at the time. So I thought that was really interesting.

Elise: [00:06:00] Even in the Revelations in Context book, they tried to highlight the temperance movement and ground this revelation in its history and its historical background by saying, “Look, this is what was going on at the time and the culture. And so it makes sense that people were asking these questions and yeah, abstaining from alcohol and tobacco was already on people's minds.” A couple of weeks ago when Channing and I were in Utah, we were talking with one of our really dear sweet, super brilliant friends, Rachel, about this upcoming Word of Wisdom episode. And she was like, “wait, I have this story. And I don't know, let me try and track it down. But I was once at an art museum and we were kind of looking around at this gallery and people were a little bit tipsy and this man came up to me and he started talking about how the Word of Wisdom was really just men's way at getting back at women because women would gather together and they would drink tea and the men didn't like it. And so they were, the men were kind of, like, spitefully trying to take away the women's tea and, and trying to spitefully kind of break up these meetings and, like, really important gatherings that the women would have.” And so she's telling us this story and we're like, “what are you talking about? I've never heard this. Please send us the article!” And I want to share what she shared with us.

Channing: [00:07:16] So before we read the quote from Jim Whitefield, who's the author of this article, I wanted to set the context of how the revelation of the Word of Wisdom was kind of, like, come to pass or what the backdrop was when it occurred.

[00:07:31] And in last week's episode, we talked about the School of the Prophets, and this was a regular meeting of all of the elders of the church who came together to learn about spiritual stuff. And it was at these meetings of the School of the Prophets that provides the backdrop for the Word of Wisdom conversation.

[00:07:55] So Jim Whitefield writes, “Joseph Smith was training men in his School of Elders every day, meeting in a small smoke-filled room above Emma's kitchen, with tobacco juice being spit all over the floor. Emma had the job of cleaning up following the meetings, the situation and results are available from several sources.

[00:08:16] This is just one. Thus Emma faced almost daily with “having to clean so filthy a floor as was left by the men chewing tobacco.” And so Emma spoke to Joseph about the matter. David Witmer's account supports Brigham Young's description, which says, “Some of the men were excessive chewers of the filthy weed and their disgusting slobbering and spitting caused Mrs. Smith to make the ironical remark that “It would be a good thing if a revelation could be had declaring the use of tobacco as a sin and commanding it's suppression.” The matter was taken up and joked about. One of the brethren also suggested that the revelation should also provide for a total abstinence from tea and coffee drinking, intending this as a counter dig at the sisters. Sure enough, the subject was afterward taken up in dead earnest and the Word of Wisdom was the result.”

Elise: [00:09:17] I think this is a very cool story. It reminds me of one of the lines that Derek and James say on their Beyond the Block podcast episodes, they talk about people prompting the prophets and I think that we can see that happening here. I'm a super fan of Emma standing up and saying, like, “First of all, this is disgusting and I shouldn't have to be cleaning up your nasty spit. Why doesn't God just, uh, have a little bit of a revelation and send it to you, Joseph, so that this can stop.”

[00:09:44] And the quote that you shared seems to share it in just like there was this bit of joking that happened between these two parties, but it is still interesting and a slight bit painful, I think, to hear that the men kind of countered back and said, “well, if we lose our tobacco, then you should lose your coffee and tea.”

[00:10:05] Something else that I found interesting actually comes from the Revelations in Context book, and they talk about how the latter day saints took a more moderate approach to things like more mild alcoholic beverages, like beer and pure wine of the grapevine that people would make for themselves. And so there's just a sense from the Revelations in Context book and the other articles that we've read that the Word of Wisdom was originally, it's hard to say originally intended, but perhaps came forward with a different type of requirement, which wasn't even a requirement. It came forward as guidance or advice. And only later in 1921, the Lord inspired President Heber J Grant to call on saints to live the Word of Wisdom to the letter by completely abstaining from all alcohol, coffee, tea and tobacco. Revelations in Context continues to say that “today church members are expected to live this higher standard.”

[00:11:01] So you see the shift happen between where the Saints were taking it, perhaps with as a bit of guidance with their own personal revelation. There's lots of stories of, like, Joseph Smith, still drinking wine and, like, showing up to people's houses on his horse, like, smoking a cigar. And so perhaps there was more room for individual personal revelation and they saw the Word of Wisdom as a bit of guidance or recommendation.

[00:11:23] And then only later did it become this really, really strict. And also it strips out all of the beauty I think that's in the original section 89 Word of Wisdom because it simply becomes a checklist. Do this, do this, don't do this. And we don't even follow them all the way.

Channing: [00:11:42] Right? Right. Well, I have some, I have a thought mostly about that date, 1921, when the Lord inspired president Heber J Grant to call on the Saints to live the Word of Wisdom to the letter... that's Prohibition.

[00:11:56] And so like, part of me is like, I don't necessarily, like, doubt that there was a, I don't know, personal revelation, perhaps that, like, abstaining entirely from alcohol was, like, given to Heber J Grant. But it's also really interesting to see, like, timelines match up in such a way where it was, like, a very popular thing at the time to participate in complete abstinence from alcohol.

[00:12:26] And it was in fact even mandated by the government for people to not drink and, like, we've just happened to continue prohibition for the last, like, a hundred years. Not that I am feeling like... I don't have any feelings on that. I'm just a little bit skeptical. I think like, that's probably just, like, the more, like, critique slash analysis side of my brain that's kind of like, Hmm. Interesting that a revelation came about right at the time as Prohibition was gaining traction.

Elise: [00:12:56] Right. Right. Well, I think that's one of the parts that sometimes we conveniently gloss over when we read the Doctrine and Covenants is, like, removing it completely from its historical context.

Channing: [00:13:07] Well, and, like, the Word of Wisdom is in 1833. Prohibition happened a hundred years later. Right. And so, like, the complete abstinence or this idea that like, after the Word of Wisdom was released, that people, like, followed it to a T just like you said, isn't necessarily accurate, like, we have historical sources that say like, “oh, actually it was kind of more-”, like, to steal a quote from the Pirates of the Caribbean.

[00:13:35] “-It was more of a guideline.”

 Elise: [00:13:39] Is that Jack Sparrow?

Channing: [00:13:40] Uh, no. It's, uh, Captain Barbossa.

Elise: [00:13:44] How does he know so much? 

Channing: [00:13:48] I know, right? There is so much goodness to celebrate about the Word of Wisdom, even though it's tied up in history, even though it's definitely imperfect. I do think that there are a lot of really beautiful things that we can pull from it.

[00:14:01] And one of the biggest topics for me that I really appreciate and really love about the Word of Wisdom is this really, it's not even subtle, it's a very explicit implication of a reciprocal relationship between humans and the earth. And Elise and I were just talking about this before we hopped on to record, that I feel like one of the reasons that the Word of Wisdom is kind of like a cornerstone of our doctrine or at least, like, a very important part of our theology is because I feel like it ties in really strongly to the creation story. And the reason for that is that in Genesis, we get the creation story where God takes all of the matter on the earth and makes it into the world that we know now.

[00:14:49] And like the crowning jewel in creation is humankind. And in Genesis the language that is used to describe humankind and describe Adam's role on earth is that of dominion. And I can offer a whole nother perspective on that. And we will do that when we get to the Old Testament next year, but sufficeth it to say that that rhetoric of dominion has been used through the last couple thousand years to justify a dominating relationship between humankind and the Earth.

[00:15:29] And one of the things that I appreciate about the Word of Wisdom is that it actually seems to offer a necessary clarification and even a necessary push back on this perspective or this interpretation of dominion, because within the Word of Wisdom, there are words like “prudence,” “Thanksgiving,” “sparingly,” “need” and these words imply concepts of restraint, of consciousness, of respect and care and balance and ecology. And so in this way, just like I said, the Word of Wisdom acts similarly to the laws of ecology, like, the actual science of ecology, which is all about balance. And so the Word of Wisdom kind of turns this idea of dominion on its head where humans have somewhat been able to work the earth and work their relationship with the earth, into their own advantage, to the point of access where instead the Word of Wisdom encourages human and non-human communities to co-exist.

[00:16:32] I loved this quote from Rosemary Radford Ruether. She writes, “Environmentalists have criticized the idea of 'dominion' given this collective Adam over the rest of creation as the prototype of both anthropocentric [that means human-centric] and exploitative use of animals and plants by 'man.'... Although created last, the human is the crown of creation, given sovereignty over it. However, an exploitative or destructive rule over earth is certainly not intended.” And this is something that I feel like the Word of Wisdom highlights really well. “Humans are not given ownership or possession of the earth, which remains the Lord’s. God is the one who possesses the earth as [Their] creation. Humanity's rule is a secondary one of care as a royal steward, not as an owner who can do with it what they will.” This obviously means that humans are to take good care of earth, not exploit it or destroy it, which would make them bad stewards. The biblical word for human or Adam, from the word Adamah, yep, from the word Adamah or earth, assumes a deep kinship of humans and earth.” And I love, I just love Rosemary Radford Ruether so much. I could seriously quote her all day, but she had this really incredible passage that, I feel like, demonstrates just how deeply tied we are to the earth and to creation. So I wanted to include this.

[00:18:04] It's not even imaginative because it's real, but this really beautiful illustration of just how deeply in-tune and like the earth we are. Ruether writes, “One of our most basic lessons of ecology for ethics and spirituality is in the interrelation of all things. Astrophysics tells us that all the elements that make up both our own bodies and those of all things on earth were generated in the alchemy of exploding stars and came to us from the galaxies as stardust. The elements of our bodies were once part bacteria that floated in the primal seas. Rocks that were crumbled by wind, rain, and plants to make soil, insects that ate the algae of primal, coastal pools, reptiles and birds that ate the algae, giant ferns nibbled on by dinosaurs as well as the bodies of those dinosaurs themselves. Myriad plants, animals, and their decaying bodies that found their way back to the earth and waters as nutrients or were cycled through the air to descend as life-giving rain. Recognition of this profound kinship must bridle the arrogant barriers that humans have erected to wall themselves off, not only from other sentient animals, but from simpler animals, plants and the abiotic matrix and rocks, soils, air, and water.”

And I know that those are some big words, but basically I love the concept that we're all literally made of stardust and dinosaurs, like, that's my dream come true. That makes me really, really happy, especially because- fun tidbit about Channing- whenever people ask me what my favorite animal is I always say stegosaurus, and that is my inner child. She just really loves that. So I honor that for her. But I feel like the Word of Wisdom, again, just really encourages this reciprocal relationship, this understanding that we are interrelated with nature and that it's our responsibility, not only as stewards, but as equal participants in the biosphere and in the biocommunities in which we live on the earth, that we have a responsibility to not take too much, to not take more than what is our share. And when we do have to, for our survival, that we do it with Thanksgiving, that we do it with a recognition of the sacrifices that were made in order to feed us, that we do it with cognition of where we fall within an ecosphere, rather than just assuming that the whole entire world is here for us to take.

[00:20:56] Another thing that I found really striking about the Word of Wisdom is that it's very generally, overall, really gender-neutral. It's notably absent of law or instruction about menstruation, pregnancy and birth, and breastfeeding, which is totally in opposition to any other, like, health codes that we find within the scriptures, especially in the Old Testament. And overall bodies are instructed to be cared for equally rather than according to gender, race, or status. And I feel like that's really cool to see in the scriptures. It's really cool to see that all people deserve, like, an equal standard or an equal level of care and that this equal level of care doesn't come at the sacrifice or at the diminishment of another being on the planet. 

[00:21:51] The last thing that I really feel is beautiful about the Word of Wisdom is that it provides this really conscious care of the physical form that our bodies are important and they need to be taken care of and it's a good thing, in fact, it's a Godly thing, to take care of our bodies in a way that honors and loves them. And I feel like, especially in Christianity broadly, and we've talked about this before on the podcast, that there's kind of this idea of, like, transcending the body, like, the body is kind of like, I don't know that ball and chain that you carry around for the rest of your life, because your spirit really does just want to go back to heaven and you're just stuck here on earth with your body. I feel like, broadly, that's kind of the accepted position and it's really beautiful to see the Word of Wisdom again, push back on that and say, “well, wait a second. Bodies are so important and they deserve our care and our protection and our love during the time that we have them.” And so it's really striking to me how this really short section, section 89, I too was, I haven't read it in a while, so I was surprised at how short it was. Like, part of me, I think I was expecting Proverbs, like, I think I was expecting more, guidelines on, like, when to go to bed, like, how to spend your days and I didn't come across any of that, but it's really striking to me to see this short section of scripture, just how many implications it can have and also how radically loving and subtly pushing back on some of those, like, really strongly held theological standpoints. I feel like it's incredible. And that's what I get excited about when I'm reading scripture like, oh, this super short section can be used in so many ways. And that's incredible to me. I love it so much.

Elise: [00:23:56] I really appreciate all that you shared here because you're reminding me of the thanksgiving involved in the Word of Wisdom. You reminded me of the interconnectedness of all beings, and you reminded me of the responsibility that we have to share and partake with everyone. There's a lovely passage that I wanted to read from an article called “Partaking of the Divine” by Sandra Clark Jurgensen that really highlights that God cares about our bodies and God cares about our temporality. 

The author writes, “I'm getting to the point now where I don't see the Word of Wisdom as another box to check. It has become a guide for me that has changed my understanding of food and my relationship to it. Is it odd to say that God is in a bowl of creamy pearl barley risotto with herb-sauteed mushrooms, or maybe in the multigrains loaves of bread I make, or in the jewel-toned beets I grow in my garden? Sometimes I think he is. I've read news blips about people who have seen the face of God or the Virgin Mary in a tortilla, slice of toasted bread, or potato chip. The scorch mark effigies on the surface are discernible, but the God in barley, bread, and beats that I'm experiencing feels much more literal. Some people say prayers at each meal, so they can remember to give thanks for their meal. To me, the food itself and the opportunity to eat it and feel joy are the reason to be grateful. I say prayers of appreciation before I eat, but I feel like I really have come to know God as I eat with Thanksgiving and live in the Word of Wisdom.

[00:25:30] I have so much to be thankful for: God's great variety and creativity. The difference between a heavy kombucha squash that can store for months and a delicate June Berry that will only last a few days or the mouth-feel of a custardy mango or the way a newly picked pea pops when I bite. God is in each one. Everything I experience points me back to the creator of it all. And I am glad as I have been guided to reread the Word of Wisdom, study more about food and learn how to cook it, I have been blessed. I feel like I have really healed my past issues. I can fully enjoy food without swallowing guilt with every bite. Rather I swallow the heaven and earth and God's mercy in my meals.

[00:26:16] Living the Word of Wisdom and finding peace in food enabled me to receive the sacrament, not just on Sundays, but daily. Now I partake of a bit of The Divine with every good thing I eat.”

I love this passage so, so much, and I really do feel like this approach and appreciation for food and the earth that we share is inspired by the Word of Wisdom and is supported by the Word of Wisdom.

[00:26:41] But also this passage reminds me of a poem that you wrote, Channing. Do you want? I think it's about, like, some French. God is like a French chef. Will you share that with us? 

Channing: [00:26:53] Yes. So, I love that you remembered that poem because it's one of my favorites. It's a poem that I love, but I don't, I dunno, it's a poem that I love.

[00:27:02] It's called Charcuterie. It says:

God is a French chef named Damian

in between baking bread and frying fishes

He makes time for me

We share cheese and fruit.

He asks me about my day 

and shows me how to make galaxies in a glass of milk.

I think I am in love.”

The end. I love that poem. I remember I wrote it when, like, I was really looking for a reiteration of God that was, like, very loving, very kind, and, like, at that point in time, like, I really needed, like, a male God. I needed a loving male, God. So Damien the French chef is male God, to me. I love it.

So as we move away from this really beautiful section in the text about the Word of Wisdom, about our relationship with each other, with the earth and with God, we move into the fascinating life story of our lady, Vienna Jaques.

[00:28:07] So we see Vienna show up in section 90. She's in verses 28 through 31. And in this section, Joseph Smith is referring to Vienna and telling her that it's her time to go and receive her inheritance in the land of Zion. So to give a little bit of biography about the amazing Vienna. She was born on June 10th, 1787 in Massachusetts.

[00:28:34] And she lived well into her forties as a single lady in Boston who was totally loaded. She was so loaded, in fact, that she had a second residence in Rhode Island with her friends and family. She held many careers in her lifetime. She was a nurse, a midwife and a freaking laundress. So, like, I'm already in love with her.

[00:28:56] Right. We're like three sentences into her biography and I'm like, okay, she's super cool. When Vienna met the missionaries in 1831, she was about 44 years of age and was a devout Methodist but after reading the Book of Mormon, “Revelations in Context” says, “One evening as she considered what to include in her prayer, she had a “vision of the Book of Mormon” that prompted her to ask the Lord about this new scripture. Subsequently, “she was firmly convinced of its divine authenticity.””

[00:29:30] So our girl Vienna had a vision of the Book of Mormon, just like Lucy Harris, who we talked about at the beginning of the year. And so after this amazing experience, this visionary experience, Vienna went to meet Joseph and she was baptized. 

Elise: [00:29:47] And after she was baptized, she returned home to Boston and using her considerable financial means hosted and housed the missionaries and converted people with the strength of her testimony. Orson Hyde and Samuel Smith, two of the missionaries, wrote. ““Some of the people were believing,” they discovered, because they “had heard Sister Vienna tell concerning the Book [of Mormon].””  She eventually gave up her home in Boston and joined the saints in Kirtland, then Missouri, which is the place in time we find ourselves in the text. Revelations in Context says, “Vienna thus became one of two 19th-century women mentioned by name in the Doctrine and Covenants (the other being Emma Smith).” Revelations in Context continues, “By the time of that March 1833 revelation, Vienna had freely given to the Church a substantial financial offering [about $1,400 in that time's money, which would be, like, about $30,000 today]- A sacrifice born out of faith.” The text says “Her gift came at a propitious time, as Church leaders were planning to purchase several parcels of land in Kirtland, including the land on which the Kirtland Temple would be built. The Church needed funds to carry out such transactions, and her contribution aided these endeavors. In fact, Joseph wrote that this single sister’s financial offering “proved a savior of life as pertaining to [the Church’s] pecuniary [financial] concern.””

Channing: [00:31:15] I love 1830s language.

Elise: [00:31:18] Wow. I don't know a lot of those words.

Channing: [00:31:21] It's fantastic. When I was doing research about Vienna, I discovered that she and Joseph actually shared a pretty close friendship. He wrote to her from Liberty Jail, when he was imprisoned there and just encouraged her to continue keeping the commandments. And it seemed that they had a really lovely friendship and knowing the history that we do about polygamy and about Joseph Smith's relationships with women, I took the liberty of looking into this one, just in case.

[00:31:56] And, I could find no substantial evidence that she was a plural wife of Joseph Smith. So that leads me to believe that the friendship was genuine. And I love that. In fact, she made Daniel Shearer in her time in Missouri, though not very much is known about their marriage. She experienced persecution in Jackson County later in the year 1833 and provided important witness statements for the violence that she saw during persecution.

[00:32:26] She fled to Nauvoo with the Saints. There, when the saints were plagued with cholera, she helped care for them and literally nursed them back to health. Eventually she made the trek to Utah where she lived out the rest of her very long and service-filled life. Revelations in Context says, “As Vienna moved into her nineties, she remained self-reliant.” An article in the July 1878 “Woman's Exponent” said of her, “She lives entirely alone, does all her own housework, including washing, ironing, and cooking, writes many letters and does a great deal of reading. Sister Vienna is very familiar with the scriptures. This last spring, she has made 61 pounds of butter and milked her own cow. Vienna Jaques died in her own home in Salt Lake City, Utah on February 7th, 1884 at the age of 96.

Elise: [00:33:24] So with all of this history, we already start to see her shaping out to be a super fantastic woman, but I also found a story from Benjamin Park that was titled “When a Woman Served as an Official Witness for Mormonism’s First Baptism for the Dead” and Vienna Jaques served as this first official witness for the very first baptism for the dead.

[00:33:45] The author writes, “it was due to another woman, however, that the baptism took place at all. In many ways. Jane Neyman had a lot in common with Jaques. She was a woman of faith who persevered through immense suffering. Her husband, William, died within months of their arrival in Nauvoo in 1840, following their son, Cyrus who had died several years previous. Death seemed ubiquitous in the Mormon city that summer. What the Saints called swamp fever took the lives of many new settlers. Funerals and burials were nearly a weekly occurrence. And at one of these funerals, Jane hears Joseph Smith introduce vicarious baptisms for the dead and she wants to make it happen.

[00:34:25] So several weeks later on September 12th, she requests that a family friend named Harvey Olmstead baptize her in behalf of her deceased son and another fellow Saint Vienna, Jack to act as witness. They marched down to the Mississippi river to perform the ritual. In order to properly observe the baptism and hear what the ceremony would be, Jacques rode her horse into the water. Thus, the first recorded baptism was a ground up affair.” And I am so touched by this story because I see women receiving inspiration and promptings and revelations, and then acting on it. This is Jane Neyman, who is saying, “wait, there's a promise of salvation for my family members who have passed away? I don't see anything happening. So like, I'm going to make it happen for myself.” These women call together their good friends to help them turn talk of doctrine or of heavenly promises into real lived experience. And in this story, there's something so incredibly sacred and holy and downright powerful about women turning to other women to share their broken heart.

[00:35:31] To talk about the depths of grief and despair, knowing full well that the friend with whom they share will witness her, will hold her and hold space for her. Will show up for her. Will help you create ritual and ride in on their horse, to the baptism to watch you and support you and witness you. I'm, like, so on fire with both of these women and so I just see their relationship coming to life. I see them taking action and guess what I don't see? We don't see them being punished.

Channing: [00:36:02] I love this story. I love Vienna. I love Jane. I love this whole entire story because- Oh! One, I feel like it pushes back on the narrative that women were just, like, passive bystanders to, like, men's experience in the early church. Like, obviously not. Obviously, like, they were fully capable of creating a ritual that was meaningful and sacred and holy. And it also indicates to me that there was kind of just, like, this accepted, understanding that, like, people are entitled to their own personal revelation and they didn't have to wait for it to come down through the prophet to the 70, to the stake president, to the bishops, like, there wasn't this whole long drawn out process. Jane was like, “I want my son to be baptized by proxy. So I'm going to do it and Vienna, will you come on your horse?” And I can just imagine Vienna being like, “Sure. I'll totally do that. Just let me finish churning this last thing of butter that I have and I’ll be there.”

Elise: [00:37:17] I feel like in this, in the reading for me, it's less like, “oh, sure. I'll be there.” And more, “Absolutely. I'm going to stop everything, like, I'm going to show up fully for you because I love and care for you. And I can be a witness for you.” And I think women's roles as witnesses is a really important piece of, like, scriptural text.

Channing: [00:37:37] I agree for sure. And like, we also learn that she was a midwife and a nurse, and I can just imagine that her experience in that role offered her a really powerful role as witness because that's a huge part of what a nurse and a midwife does is witness and support through healing. And so in so many ways, Vienna was the perfect person for this.

[00:38:04] And she's just incredible. Like, I really admire her strength. I admire her willingness to follow what her heart feels like is true and I imagine she helped so many people in her long life. I imagine she touched so many lives and I'm really grateful to know Vienna's story, like, holy cow! There are incredible women in the Doctrine and Covenants if we go looking for them.

The final thing we wanted to mention about this week’s sections is in section 91. And this entire section it's very short, it's only six verses long, and it's revelation concerning the Apocrypha. And the Apocrypha is a section of Greek scriptures that were not included in the Hebrew version of the Bible.

[00:39:00] And so Joseph Smith approached the Lord asking, “What should we do with the Apocrypha? Should we translate it? Should we read it? What should we do?” And the Lord seems to say, “Yeah, it's a valuable section of text, but it doesn't necessarily need to be translated.” A couple of the highlights from the verses: It says in verse one, “verily, thus saith the Lord unto you concerning the Apocrypha. There are many things contained therein that are true, and it is mostly translated correctly.” Verse two says, “there are many things contained therein that are not true, which are interpolations by the hands of men.” So the Lord goes on to say that “it's not needful that the Apocrypha should be translated,” but in the remaining verses of the section, the Lord says, “Whoso readeth it, let him understand, for the Spirit manifesteth truth and whoso is enlightened by the Spirit shall obtain benefit. And whoso receiveth not by the spirit cannot be benefited.” So basically we get the sense that the Lord is kind of saying like, “yeah, you can totally read it. And if you're reading with the Spirit, you'll probably get a lot of benefit from reading this text. But if you're not, it probably won't mean anything to you.”

[00:40:18] And I really appreciated this small section in 91 because I feel like, yes, it definitely applies to the Apocrypha, but I also feel like it applies to scriptures really generally, like, yeah, if you read by the Spirit, you will obtain benefit. If you don’t, then you won't. And also like some of the other concepts, like many things contained therein are true and are translated correctly, but there are also many things that are not, which are translations or interpretations that are written by the hands of men. And so based on the work that we do on the podcast, I felt like, oh, 91, I love this section because it kind of is... I wouldn't say it's necessarily at the heart of our work, but it does inform a large part of our work. It does provide a foundation for creative interpretations that are based on personal revelations and the speakings of the Holy Spirit within us.

[00:41:20] So I was really excited to see that contained within the sections that we are reading this week..

Elise: [00:41:26] Yes, so was I, especially if we switch out Apocrypha for any other text, right. Let me tell you something about the Book of Mormon. There are many things that are true and most of it is translated correctly, but there are also many things that are not true and lots of things that have been translated and interpreted by the hands of men.

[00:41:44] And so I just think that's a really, like you said, it gets to the heart of our work and it also gets to the, kind of, one of the core things that I believe that scriptures are stories and some of the stories are true and some of them have lots of human hand prints all over it. All of the stories have human handprints, but some can be more or less true.

Channing: [00:42:05] Right. And I also think it ties back into the 13th article of faith, which basically says, like, we believe in all things that are good and true and bring light or whatever. I don't even, it's been a long time since I've memorized the 13th article of faith, but it doesn't even necessarily say like, “okay, just because the Apocrypha isn't canonized doesn't mean that you can't read it, doesn't mean that there's not value in it.”

[00:42:31] And so I love this very open interpretation and this a very, like, open invitation to read things and interpret them as life-giving and valuable. So 91, it's a short section, but also really powerful in the six verses that it has.

Channing: [00:42:58] Thank you all for joining us. We love you so much and are thrilled to be able to share yet another episode with you. We can't wait to see you next week and hopefully see you in October. ‘Til next time, bye!

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